Good sentences don’t make good writing

Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.
7 min readMay 21, 2017
Alex Eylar, Sentience Structure, flickr, licensed by CC 2.0

Tell me: Which of the sentences below is a good sentence?

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”

[Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960]

“It was October 23, 2008.”

[Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise, 2012]

“Why are there so many robots in fiction, but none in real life?”

[Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, 1997]

“I am ten years old and I know every crack, bone and crevice in the crumbling sidewalk running up and down Randolph Street, my street.”

[Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run, 2016]

“Too often, the word rhetoric implies empty words, manipulation, deception, or persuasion at any cost.”

[Cheryl Glenn, The New Harbrace Guide, 2018]

“Not long ago we attended a talk at an academic conference where the speaker’s central claim seemed to be that a certain sociologist — call him Dr. X — had done very good work in a number of areas of the discipline.”

[Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say/I Say, 2017]

“On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool…



Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.

Writer, teacher, researcher, optimist. I explore language & everyday genres to help people see & choose the language & genres they use.