I recall from my youth a term for a long sentence which hid its meaning or point until the very end. it was used often in academic writing (and since I was doing much academic writing, I used this method often). I thought that the term for such a sentence was something akin to hypotonic or like that but since that word is a term for low pressure I doubt that that's what it is. It isn't a case of simple prolixity as the term in question was a technical label for the structure of the "reveal." [note, the final part of the sentence need not be especially shocking but is an essential part of the sentence structure, not an extra bit appended to the base sentence}

Can anyone help me remember the word for this type of sentence?

Here is a long sentence by Hannah Arendt.

With the rise of the modern age, thinking became chiefly the handmaiden of science, of organized knowledge; and even though thinking then grew extremely active, following modernity’s crucial conviction that I can know only what I myself make, it was Mathematics, the non-empirical science par excellence, wherein the mind appears to play only with itself, that turned out to be the Science of sciences, delivering the key to those laws of nature and the universe that are concealed by appearances.

  • Also see Garden path sentence, a subset of the sentences the question asks about – James Waldby - jwpat7 Oct 27 '14 at 4:37
  • @jwpat7 - The OP's example is not a garden-path sentence; nor is that what he is describing in his preamble. Indeed, even the example sentence does not fully conform to the preamble's description, viz. "...the final part of the sentence [...] is an essential part of the sentence structure, not an extra bit appended to the base sentence". But the final clause of his example sentence, "delivering the key to those laws of nature and the universe that are concealed by appearances", is in fact an extra bit appended to the base sentence, which actually ends with "...the Science of sciences". – Erik Kowal Oct 27 '14 at 5:19
  • It's simply a good writing style to structure a sentence thus, so the reader will not have lost the main or most important point by the time they finish reading the sentence. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 5:53
  • See also Writing – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 5:55
  • 1
    A sentence with a point (period) :) at the end is a sentence. – SrJoven Oct 27 '14 at 13:23

You might be looking for the word paraprosdokian.

According to Wikipedia, it is

"a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part"

But given that your intuition has conjured hypotonic, you might be thinking of hyperbaton, a figure of speech involving transposing words in order to maximize effect.


I believe the term you are looking for might be a "periodic" sentence. A periodic sentence is a sentence in which the main clause is given at the end of the sentence in order to create suspense or interest.

  • Hello, mark. Can you please add some supporting evidence. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 4 '17 at 21:20

I think (after more searching) that it would be an extended example of hypotaxis, "An arrangement of phrases or clauses in a dependent or subordinate relationship. Also called the subordinating style. "


But if anyone knows a better term, I'm open to suggestions.


run-on sentence

a long overly verbose sentence better grouped in multiple sentences and paragraphs

  • 1
    Run-on sentence refers to a sentence whose independent clauses are not adequately separated. He eats the chicken lays eggs is a run-on not because it's long or verbose or better grouped into multiple sentences, but because it's missing a semicolon or a conjunction. – choster Jul 30 '15 at 15:26

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