Periodic Sentence: Definition and Examples The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

“In the almost incredibly brief time which it took the small but sturdy porter to roll a milk-can across the platform and bump it, with a clang, against other milk-cans similarly treated a moment before, Ashe fell in love.”

  1. Embrace the potential of periodic sentences to elevate your writing and create memorable content that resonates with your audience.
  2. Noticing her daughter’s passion, her mother signed her up for lessons with a well-known local instructor.
  3. “The proper place in the sentence for the word or group of words that the writer desires to make most prominent is usually the end.”
  4. By delaying the reveal of the main idea, writers can build tension and engage the reader more deeply in their message.
  5. The build-up makes up the rest of the sentence and creates some suspense.

Here, Coelho’s speaker places the main clause “you’ll be a happy man” at the end of the statement. It takes reading through “If you can always concentrate on the present” to get to the main point of the sentence. A complex sentence is like a master storyteller – offering you an engaging narrative fueled by detail, depth, and intrigue. If the writer put the main clause at the start, it may offend people.

Besides this classification, one should have a basic idea about the concept of periodic and loose sentences. A periodic sentence is defined as a sentence in which the writer holds back the central idea till the very end. Thus, it begins with the dependent clause and ends with the independent clause. Employing a variety of sentence structures will help maintain the reader’s engagement while preventing monotony. Striking the right balance between periodic and other sentence structures, such as loose sentences, ensures your writing remains dynamic and captivating. While loose sentences more closely mirror ordinary speech, periodic sentences inject drama and excitement into your prose.

Have you ever found yourself captivated by a sentence that gradually builds anticipation and suspense, as you eagerly wait for the main point to be revealed? You’ve likely encountered a periodic sentence, a form of complex sentence in English grammar that strategically structures the main idea at the end. This linguistic technique creates a powerful effect by using dependent clauses to lead up to the independent clause, emphasizing the key message. In this article, you’ll learn about the origins of periodic sentences, their unique characteristics, and how to use them effectively in your writing.

This information should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. Periodic sentences are those that feature the main clause and/or predicate at the end of the sentence. Here, Emerson creates drama by setting up his definition of genius. Readers might find themselves surprised that belief in one’s own thought is what defines “genius” in this literary work. Leaving it till the end of the sentence makes the phrase feel more meaningful and interesting.

Rhetorical and literary usage

Short sentences are simple sentences that cannot put emphasis on information that is more important. Complex sentences are mostly used when the writer wants to arrange the information in an order of importance. It creates a dramatic effect, as it keeps the reader in suspense about what is going to happen. On the flip side, it forces the reader to search for the delayed main idea. The reader could sometimes lose interest midway, especially in case of periodic interruptive sentences that are long.

The Dramatic Effects of Periodic Sentences in Writing

These sentences are recognized for their rhetorical prowess and have been utilized by prolific writers to enhance their prose with stylistic flair and suspense. Writers use periodic structure when they want to create drama or make their text feel more poetic and aesthetic. Leaving the main clause until the end of a passage or line forces the reader to dig their way through other images. This should, in theory, make that main clause all the more impactful when it’s finally revealed. Kipling was betting on this when he wrote ‘If—.’ It should be noted, though, that some examples of periodic structure in one’s writing are okay, but too many could overwhelm the reader and make it hard to understand what’s going on. As you revise your writing, be sure to read your periodic sentences out loud.


With a gradually unfolding succession of differently weighted descriptions, the effective technique is one that can enrich the image, arouse curiosity, or expound an argument. There is an aesthetic of poetry to this way of constructing a sentence — an emotional creation of tension and release. In part due to this extra rhetoric, but also because of a media-influenced cultural preference for brevity, periodic sentences are not commonly encountered.

The Importance of Reading Sentences Aloud During Revision

Let’s look into complex sentences in more depth and figure out what they mean. By understanding the differences between periodic and loose sentences, writers can make informed choices about how to structure their sentences for the desired effect. The key is to balance these various sentence structures to create engaging and dynamic writing that captures and retains the reader’s interest. Characterized by the presence of an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses, these sentence structures skillfully convey relationships like cause-and-effect, comparison, and other logical connections. This added layer of information helps to provide context or detailed descriptions, enriching the overall narrative.

A periodic sentence is a sentence, usually complex or long, that builds up expectations and deliberately positions the main clause at the end. Shakespeare uses this technique at this moment in order to romanticize the sentiment and make the passage all the more memorable. Complex sentences are a formidable tool for conveying intricate, engaging, and thought-provoking ideas in English grammar. By understanding their construction and effectively employing them in your writing and speech, you will enrich your communication and pave the way for more meaningful interactions. The build-up makes up the rest of the sentence and creates some suspense.

A periodic sentence helps to handle sensitive and emotional ideas and avoids offending readers. According to Grammar Monster, a periodic sentence is one in which a sentence that has been deliberately structured to place the main point at the end. A periodic sentence will have its main clause or predicate as the last part. This is a type of rhetoric like parallelism that is used to build suspense and draw the reader to a specific word while creating curiosity during the busy sentence, until the final revelation is revealed. We’ll begin our review of periodic sentences by first looking at how they differ from loose sentences. The sentence opens with a clause and a phrase without informing the reader to whom or what they refer.

As demonstrated in the literary example above, the periodic sentence delays the main action – in this case, the description of the beautiful scenery – until the very end. Readers are first guided through a series of picturesque periodic sentence definition details before reaching the unveiling of the primary message. Periodic sentences build upon the readers’ curiosity as they navigate through the sentence’s details and context before reaching the main idea.

This practice allows you to detect any awkwardness in rhythm or clarity, opening up opportunities for improvement and fine-tuning. By investing time in refining your periodic sentence compositions, you can maximize their impact and help retain your reader’s interest throughout your work. Embrace the potential of periodic sentences to elevate your writing and create memorable content that resonates with your audience. Over time, periodic sentences have continued to be a popular choice among writers for their unique ability to create anticipation, hold attention, and elicit a strong response from readers.