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This Sentence Has Five Words: A Lesson from Gary Provost on Varying Sentence Length

This short example from Gary Provost demonstrates what happens when a writer experiments with sentences of different lengths, as quoted in Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark.

Gary Provost was born in 1944 and died in 1995. He was the author of many books across a range of genres including four award-winning young adult novels. Provost was also a highly sought after writing instructor and published a number of writing advice books including Make Every Word Count (Writers Digest Books, 1980). Read more about Gary Provost at, a site established and maintained by his wife Gail.



  1. 14 November 2016 / 11:32 pm

    I love love love this! Is it weird that I always look at my sentence lengths when I’m writing. Super interesting. Thank you for sharing!

  2. 24 December 2016 / 3:25 pm

    Alan is right. If anything, it could use a semi-color right before “it is important” at the end.

    • Steven Barbash
      24 October 2019 / 8:21 am

      Better would be to insert quotes including “Listen to this; this is important.”

  3. L.D. Allen
    20 August 2017 / 8:38 am

    No semi-colon The sentence reads “sounds that say listen to this” “sounds that say this is important.” A semi-colon would indicate that “this is important” is not the object of “sounds that say” and would change the entire meaning of the sentence.

    • Juan Carlos
      30 January 2020 / 2:44 am

      Agreed. Semi-colon changes the very end into something else. The writer thought it through and wants the reader to keep the messages together, lyrical.

  4. CMR
    16 November 2023 / 2:59 am

    I second this. Resist the gravitational pull toward complexity.

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