The Convoluted Sentence

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In this type of periodic structure the subordinate elements split the main clause from the inside, often intruding between the subject and the verb and sometimes between verb and object or within the verb phrase:

White men, at the bottom of their hearts, know this.

James Baldwin

And once in a spasm of reflex chauvinism, she called Queen Victoria, whom she rather admired, "a goddamned old water dog."

William Alfred

Convoluted structure, as an occasional rather than habitual style, is a good way of achieving variety in sentence move-

It also establishes strong emphasis by throwing weight upon the words before and after the commas or dashes setting off the interrupting constructions:

Now demons, whatever else they may be, are full of interest.

Lytton Strachey

Here both "demons" and "full of interest" draw attention, expressing the principal idea more strongly than would loose or periodic structure:

Now demons are full of interest, whatever else they may be. Whatever else they may be, demons are full of interest.

However, this fact does not mean that the convoluted style is inherently better than either the periodic or the loose. It is simply a convenient way of establishing emphasis on particular words when that emphasis is desirable.

On the other hand, convoluted structure is formal, and it can tax readers' attention, especially as the interrupting elements grow longer and more complicated:

Even the humble ambition, which I long cherished, of making sketches of those places which interested me, from a defect of eye or of hand was totally ineffectual. Sir Walter Scott

The life story to be told of any creative worker is therefore by its very nature, by its diversion of purpose and its qualified success, by its grotesque transitions from sublimation to base necessity and its pervasive stress towards flight, a comedy. H. c. Wells

These are good sentences, carefully articulated and precise; but they are not easy to read. They demand attention; readers must recognize when a construction is suspended and when it is resumed and be able to put the pieces together. Used sparingly, the long convoluted sentence has the virtue of the unusual: it draws attention to itself and, more important, to what it says, and it can challenge and stimulate the reader. A

steady diet of such challenges, however, very soon grows tiresome.

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  • Yorda Kidane
    How to write convoluted sentences?
    8 years ago
  • Jennifer
    What is a convoluted sentence?
    4 months ago

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