Short Stories Created With Example Sentences From Dictionaries

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When looking up a word in the dictionary, the sample sentences provided below the definition always help give context for words. While helpful, these examples can be strange or oddly poetic. Designer and illustrator Jez Burrows saw potential in those single sentences, and decided to weave them together to create short stories, which turned out to be oddly poignant.

“I just happened to be looking up some definitions in the dictionary when one of the example sentences really jumped out at me,” Burrows told It's Nice That. “It was for the word ‘study,’ and the sentence read: ‘He perched on the edge of the bed, a study in confusion and misery.’ The language of dictionary definitions is all very plain and functional, so seeing this incredibly heavy and evocative sentence in amongst it all really struck me and seemed like the beginning of a short story.”

Burrows stitches these vignettes together and keeps them on a blog called Dictionary Stories. Often he will look for one really good example as a jumping off point and work from there. The artist keeps a large collection of sentences on file and tries to assemble them by picking various sentences from the collection—like collaging with words.

“I have an enormous text file of hundreds of sentences that I think might go somewhere," he said. "I love seeing sentences which I swear can’t be used, then finding another that unlocks the potential for narrative. Although I’m not so sure I’ll ever be able to use ‘The country is heavily dependent on banana exports.’”

[h/t: It's Nice That]