The Loose Sentence

At its simplest the loose sentence contains a main clause plus a subordinate construction:

We must always be wary of conclusions drawn from the ways of the social insects, since their evolutionary track lies so far from

Ours. Robert Ardrey

The number of ideas in loose sentences is easily increased by adding phrases and clauses, related either to the main constructions or to a preceding subordinate one:

I found a large hall, obviously a former garage, dimly lit, and packed With COtS. Eric Hoffer

I knew I had found a friend in the woman, who herself was a lonely soul, never having known the love of man or child.

Emma Goldman

As the number of subordinate constructions increases, the loose sentence approaches the cumulative style (discussed on pages It is impossible to draw a line between loose and cumulative sentences. Indeed, cumulative sentences (or rather, most of them) are a special variety of the loose style. The difference is relative, depending on the length and weight of the subordinate constructions. In the cumulative sentence these take over, becoming more than the main clause, which serves primarily to introduce them. The following passage describing a Welsh town illustrates how loose structure evolves into a cumulative style:

Llanblethian hangs pleasantly, with its white cottages, and orchard and other trees, on the western slope of a green hill; looking far and wide over green meadows and little or bigger hills, in the pleasant plain of Glamorgan; a short mile to the south of Cowbridge, to which smart little town it is properly a kind of suburb.

Thomas Carlyle

Loose sentences are appropriate for writing that aims to be colloquial, informal, relaxed. It puts first things first, as most of us do when we talk. On the other hand, loose structure lacks emphasis and easily becomes formless. Its unity derives not so much from a structural principle as from the coherence of thought. A loose sentence is well formed to the degree that it expresses a completed idea or perception. A good example is the following passage, which begins a description of the Brooklyn home belonging to the writer's grandmother:

Her house was a narrow brownstone, two windows to every floor except the ground, where the place of one window was taken by a double door of solid walnut plated with layers of dust-pocked cheap enamel. Its shallow stoop William Alfred

Alfred's sentence is unified by what it facade of the house. When that perception ends and our eyes are turned upon the stoop, the writer wisely begins a new sentence. Of course, this question of when to stop, of knowing when one statement should end and another begin, applies to all kinds of sentences. But it causes special problems with loose structure, where the absence of a clear stopping place may tempt you to ramble on and on.

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Responses

  • Arsenio
    How to write a loose sentence?
    8 years ago
  • ANKE
    How to write a loose sentance?
    8 years ago
  • ivan
    What must the simplest sentence contain?
    8 years ago
  • hunter
    What is a loose structure in writing?
    8 years ago

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