Sunday, February 22, 2009


The first sentence in Monte Cristo that we looked at on Friday stretched two or three lines in length. It obviously worked well for Dumas and I truthfully did like it, but it did seem rather too long. Today, I awoke thinking about the converse – short sentences.

“Go.” It’s the shortest complete sentence in the English language. I suppose if you want to require two words that you could upgrade to “I am.” Neither of these have ever been used to open any books that I can recall. The shortest sentence I’ve read (and can readily recollect) to open a book is Moby Dick’s “Call me Ishmael.”

It’s easily the most famous opening in English literature, so it’s hard to argue against Melville’s using it. Personally, I can’t see using a short sentence to open my book. Critics and fans alike would see it and think it was done for effect or imitation.


  1. Go.

    I've never thought what the shorted sentence is, but I think you've got it!

  2. Maybe for grins, I'll see if I can't work it into my next novel (just not as the first sentence). Blog readers beware!