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Shell sort algorithm sorts elements by comparing and swapping them at certain intervals, gradually reducing the interval size.

Shell sort, named after its inventor Donald Shell, is an in-place comparison sort algorithm. It is a generalisation of insertion sort that allows the exchange of items that are far apart. The method starts by sorting pairs of elements far apart from each other, then progressively reducing the gap between elements to be compared and swapped. This interval between the elements is often referred to as the 'gap' or 'increment'.

The algorithm begins by defining a gap, usually half of the total length of the list. It then compares elements that are this distance apart, swapping them if they are in the wrong order. This process continues with the same gap until the entire list has been traversed. Then, the gap is halved and the process repeats. This continues until the gap is 1, at which point the algorithm is essentially performing an insertion sort. However, by this time, the list is guaranteed to be almost sorted, which is a best-case scenario for insertion sort, allowing it to finish in linear time.

The key to Shell sort's improved performance over insertion sort is that it allows elements to move to their correct position in the list faster. In insertion sort, an element can only move one position per iteration, regardless of how far it is from its correct position. In Shell sort, an element can move several positions per iteration, thanks to the larger gap size at the start of the algorithm.

The exact choice of gap sequence can have a significant impact on the performance of Shell sort. The original gap sequence proposed by Shell was to halve the gap at each step, but other sequences such as the Pratt sequence or the Ciura sequence have been shown to provide better performance in some cases.

In summary, Shell sort is a clever variation on insertion sort that allows elements to move more quickly to their correct position in the list, resulting in improved performance.

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