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In 2014, when conducting writing seminars, I discussed this piece by Provost. As authors, we are supposed to be creative people, thinking people, people who push boundaries.

After more than 30 years, this seductive piece continues to circulate within literary circles in Singapore.

Provost 5-word Sentences

Authors, and indeed all truly creative people, challenge the norm; ask questions; and  venture where no one else has or dares to. You see this trait not only in the generally accepted creative fields but also in science and industry, business and government, and, in social and military fields – indeed in all fields of human endeavour.

Read Provost’s first paragraph aloud. A poor reader would put you off or put you to sleep. He is right; several same length sentences can be monotonous. However, a good reader (bring out the closet actor in you) injects life into the paragraph – even if all the sentences are five words’ length.

It is not easy to write a decent length paragraph using only five-word or any fixed-length sentences. Even Provost, perhaps unknowingly, admits to this by resorting to a contraction – It’s (instead of, it is) like a stuck record.

Writing sentences of varying lengths is natural to all and, to begin with, there is no problem. Therefore, I do not understand what Provost is crowing about. However, Provost is right when he says we have to write music. Then, he gallops away and blames the wrong horse.

It is not the word-length of sentences but the number of syllables and the rhythm – the sound, as Provost calls it – that matters, that makes music.

You can write 5-word sentences in an entire paragraph and even in an entire book (though this is extremely difficult to pull off) and have music. The test? Read his 5-word paragraph again. Depending on how you read – it can be musical or “boring”.

Perhaps I missed the plot. Was that a pun 🙂

What do you reckon?

************ Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2016 ************