Prof. Brooks Landon, U. Iowa, Ph.D. U. Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013). pp 55-56.

Why don’t writers tier long sentences as Landon does beneath? His formatting is far more readable, and clarity's more important than the additional required space.

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    In what context? While that might be fine for an analysis of grammar, I would find it horrendous for any kind of normal reading material. If I saw that in a book I was browsing in a bookstore, I'd immediately put it back on the shelf and move on to something else. – Jason Bassford Feb 2 '19 at 20:14
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    I find it makes the page unnecessarily busy and the sentence becomes much more difficult to read in a quick fluid way. The numbers are very distracting too. – SC for reinstatement of Monica Feb 2 '19 at 20:37
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    Surely he is numbering the components only to show different ways to analyse the structure of long sentences? If he's actually suggesting that a writer should draft a sentence like this, throw his book away! – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Feb 2 '19 at 21:55
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    Because we're writing actual written works and not computer programs? – Cyn says make Monica whole Feb 2 '19 at 23:08

While it is a useful tool when parsing it, such a construct damages the natural flow of prose. You say it makes it more clear, but I see something that seems forced, convoluted and distracting.

He is showing how each clause has a purpose, adding description or action, improving the sense of place. I suspect he would be horrified if someone started writing a novel in such a format.

Writers seek to involve the reader, creating that sense of immersion where time stands still and you glance up to realize you missed a meal.

Lines imply a pause or breath, a change of character or action and have meaning though subtle. Choosing to have each clause and subclause have its own line would alter the rhythm of the read - potentially making the work stutter.

In poetry, word placement on a line creates emphasis and supports the meter. Such treatment of prose would emphasize everything and lose significance.

Such formatting would interfere with immersion and seem almost a parody of modern verse.

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  • A highly poetic novel may be the exception. Poetry pays a lot of attention to form in the English language. But Shakespearean plays may look like prose, but the lines - esp. for the upper class - are very poetic and metered. – Double U Feb 3 '19 at 12:30
  • Shakespearean plays are iambic pentameter throughout though the formatting is less formal. Each scene ends with a rhyming couplet. Poetry certainly does use form for emphasis - words at the beginning, end and sometimes middle of the line receiving the benefit. Les Miserables has gorgeous poetic passages that sparkle with beauty. The OPs format would have severely damaged the flow of such, reducing my enjoyment and appreciation of it. – Rasdashan Feb 3 '19 at 14:08

Prf. Brooks Landon does not suggest to actually write that way but uses indention to highlight different sentence structures and how they impact the flow of reading. He does not actually propose to indent in prose text but uses it as a tool to analyze the sentences. Read the first little introduction of your snippet:

We can easily see the movement of this sentence if we diagram its levels.

Put the emphasis on diagram its levels. The use of this method is in text analysis.

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