segregating style (prose)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

segregating style
Messages on signs typically employ the segregating style. (Michelle McCarron/Getty Images)


The segregating style is a prose style characterized by sequences of fairly short simple sentences.

"In practice," says Thomas S. Kane, the segregating style "is rarely confined to technically simple, one-idea statements. That would be monotonous. Instead, a segregating style consists of relatively short, uncomplicated sentences, even though some of them may not be simple in the grammatical sense" (The New Oxford Guide to Writing, 1988).

The term segregating style was introduced by Edwin Herbert Lewis in The History of the English Paragraph, 1894.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "From all the hills came screams. A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. It was a loosened circle of evening sky, suddenly lighted from the back. It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place. There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world."
    (Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse." Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper, 1982)

  • The Segregating Style in Descriptive and Narrative Prose
    "Segregating sentences are especially useful in descriptive and narrative writing. They analyze a complicated perception or action into its parts and arrange these in a significant order. . . .

    "The segregating style . . . is less useful in exposition, where you must combine ideas in subtle gradations of logic and importance. These subtleties cannot be conveyed by a series of short, independent statements, which treat all ideas as equally important. 
    (Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing, Oxford University Press, 1988)

  • Virtues and Vices of the Segregating Style
    - "The virtues of the segregating style are power and clarity; its vices are monotony and disjunction. It's jumpy; it doesn't differentiate one piece of action or argument or information from another. It may sound detached, sometimes cold. In corporate writing it can lead to what one of my clients calls 'bureaucratic staccato.' It's weak at linkage and, consequently, not much good for sustained and subtle argumentation. Musically, too, its dynamics are poor, and it all goes at pretty much the same pace."
    (Mark Tredinnick, Writing Well: The Essential Guide, Cambridge University. Press, 2008)

    - "A simple declarative sentence makes a statement. It has no subordinate elements. A strong of simple declarative sentences creates monotony. Monotony steals life from your writing.

    "On the other hand, a series of short sentences can produce an insistent, emphatic tone. To produce this effect, repeat not only the sentence structure but also a word or phrase, as in this series of sentences: 'Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they make mistakes. But seldom do their efforts go unnoticed.' Note that progressing from shorter to longer sentences produces a pleasing rhythm . . .. "
    (Stephen Wilbers, Keys to Great Writing. F + W, 2000)

  • E.H. Lewis on the Segregating Style
    "To the style in which the sentence of maximum frequency is short--say twenty words or less--let us assign the name Segregating. The opposite of this style, then, the style that brings its clauses together in whole blocks (as old Thomas Fuller would have said) or (as Minto has improved the expression) in flocks, will be the Aggregating style. . . .

    "According to this cumbrous, but, I hope, definite terminology, [Thomas] Macaulay's style would be at once segregating and redintegrating. Macaulay asks you to supply nothing but conjunctions; nay, he often expands into a sentence of transition a relation that [Thomas] De Ouincey would get rid of with a however, and that [Ralph Waldo] Emerson would leave you to guess at."
    (Edwin Herbert Lewis, The History of the English Paragraph, 1894)