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Author Topic: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...  (Read 3561 times)

Offline ClintACK

Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« on: October 13, 2015, 12:31:28 PM »
I just finished a reasonably good book the other day, but was irritated by a weird writing tic the author had of writing compound predicates with just a comma.

Example: "Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else."

It feels like it should either be "and wished" or "wishing", and I had to read the sentence twice to get the meaning, which threw me out of the story.  And there were dozens of examples of this construction in the novel.


I started to look at my own writing for similar issues.  One that Word keeps throwing green-squiggly-lines at is my tendency to use "then" as a conjunction. 

Example: She did this, then did that.
Example: “Good guess,” she said, then pointed at his shirt. 
Example: She took a neatly folded linen handkerchief and a wet nap from her bag, then casually sliced open the heel of her hand with the knife.

How do these read?  Should I be writing, "She did this, and then did that."?

Offline Mr.J

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Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2015, 12:40:35 PM »
Generalising from my own experience I presume its something writers do frequently in first drafts. I tend to take out all the "then" and "that"'s from my description and strip it right down.

So in those examples you've provided I would change it to:

Example: "Good guess", she said pointing at his shirt.
Example: She took a neatly folded linen handkerchief and a wet nap from her bag, casually slicing open the heel of her hand with the knife.

But that comma thing in your initial example is strange, either the author didn't use 'wishing', which is what they should have used imo, either because he thought the emotion didn't connect with the action? In which case they could have used a semi-colon, separate the two lines from each other entirely or just re-write it. :P

Offline Raptori

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Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2015, 12:46:06 PM »
Yeah your examples read perfectly fine to me, but I'd also probably change them as Mr.J suggested. It depends though, sometimes the sentence with "then" would flow better, and would provide a more varied sentence structure, so I wouldn't cut them all out.

The examples from the book you read are definitely a bit weird and would pull me up. I think that technique would sort of work in present tense, but in past tense it feels wrong.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2015, 01:24:45 PM »
I just finished a reasonably good book the other day, but was irritated by a weird writing tic the author had of writing compound predicates with just a comma.

Example: "Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else."

It feels like it should either be "and wished" or "wishing", and I had to read the sentence twice to get the meaning, which threw me out of the story.  And there were dozens of examples of this construction in the novel.


I started to look at my own writing for similar issues.  One that Word keeps throwing green-squiggly-lines at is my tendency to use "then" as a conjunction. 

Example: She did this, then did that.
Example: “Good guess,” she said, then pointed at his shirt. 
Example: She took a neatly folded linen handkerchief and a wet nap from her bag, then casually sliced open the heel of her hand with the knife.

How do these read?  Should I be writing, "She did this, and then did that."?

Oh, I would definitely advise on completely skipping the "then". I do believe it's a defect, when a character seems to be unable to do several things at the same time.

Either it's like Mr.J said, even though I'd add a coma myself...

Quote
Example: "Good guess", she said, pointing at his shirt.

Or it's two different actions entirely and you can separate them fully.

I guess your use of "then" in that dialogue setting is especially bad because it makes it sound like your characters can't say and do something at the same time.

Ok, this obviously brings an article to mind, but don't get offended by the title. She summarizes my opinion on "then" in dialogue really well, tis all! Its just her first point.

http://www.caroclarke.com/fourfaults.html


But I do agree, like the others, that the lines from the book you read are jarring and would also pull me out.
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Offline Mr.J

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Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2015, 02:06:38 PM »
Considering the book I just read, Beastings by Benjamin Myers, it was an exceptional and exceptionally rare piece of writing. There was no punctuation in the whole book, just full stops, no commas no colons nothing. I couldn't read too many like it, but it certainly made for an interesting experience of reading.

I highly recommend looking into it, if only just on the amazon look inside thing to see what its like.

Offline Yora

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2015, 05:03:22 PM »
Example: "Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else."

Sounds very Noir to me. It's not completely uncommon, but generally associated with a certain style.

As all writing advice should always go: You can do it, if you feel certain that you want the effect that it creates.
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Offline Francis Knight

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2015, 05:54:58 PM »
The problem with removing the "then" is that it (often) sounds like a character is doing things simultaneously. Which can give some hilarious/weird images....

She opened the front door, petted the cat upstairs. What, both at the same time?

Frex
Quote
Example: She took a neatly folded linen handkerchief and a wet nap from her bag, casually slicing open the heel of her hand with the knife.

Where does the knife come from? This construction makes me feel that either the handkerchief or the wet nap(what is that btw? Without the second clause I'd assume short for napkin) is a knife. So removal of the "then" renders the sentence illogical. Unless a nap is a knife I suppose, or there is some other context that is msiing....???

There is nothing wrong with using then as a conjunction (as noted it can be confusing if you don't). It is not always superfluous. Ofc if someone IS doing things simultaneously then it's fine to remove in most cases

Tl:dr sometimes then is needed for the sentence to make sense. If so, don't remove it. Sometimes f two actions are simultaneous, it is superfluous, then you can.

Be clear. If you need to use then to do so, then do






« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 05:57:41 PM by Francis Knight »
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2015, 06:28:55 PM »
I'm not a native English speaker, so I might not know what I'm talking about (though I did try to look these things up), but...

I just finished a reasonably good book the other day, but was irritated by a weird writing tic the author had of writing compound predicates with just a comma.

Example: "Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else."

It feels like it should either be "and wished" or "wishing", and I had to read the sentence twice to get the meaning, which threw me out of the story.  And there were dozens of examples of this construction in the novel.
That example sentence doesn't feel like proper English, but I think it could be correct as the word 'wished' could be a past participle, which would make the "wished he were somewhere else" part a participle phrase. Using the present participle (-ing) might be more common, but I'm not sure if it's wrong to use the past participle.
Maybe something like that?  :-\

I started to look at my own writing for similar issues.  One that Word keeps throwing green-squiggly-lines at is my tendency to use "then" as a conjunction. 

Example: She did this, then did that.
Example: “Good guess,” she said, then pointed at his shirt. 
Example: She took a neatly folded linen handkerchief and a wet nap from her bag, then casually sliced open the heel of her hand with the knife.

How do these read?  Should I be writing, "She did this, and then did that."?

I think that (strictly) according to English grammar 'then' shouldn't be used as a coordinating conjunction. So using 'and then' would be the correct way. Oh, and I don't think there should be commas in your example sentences since the '(and) then' isn't joining two independent clauses.

If there are two separate actions (that follow each other), then, to me, using '(and) then' seems like a ok thing to do.


Of course, all I said above could be wrong.  ;D
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Offline Yora

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2015, 06:29:50 PM »
It only works in specific situations of course. It's not always an option to replace "and" and "then".

I've only seen it for things that happen simultaneously and most often for describing things or situations, not actions.
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Offline m3mnoch

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2015, 06:36:23 PM »
I just finished a reasonably good book the other day, but was irritated by a weird writing tic the author had of writing compound predicates with just a comma.

Example: "Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else."

It feels like it should either be "and wished" or "wishing", and I had to read the sentence twice to get the meaning, which threw me out of the story.  And there were dozens of examples of this construction in the novel.

summoning @Doctor_Chill.  now summoning @Doctor_Chill.

Offline ClintACK

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2015, 07:52:16 PM »
So I searched for ", then" and replaced most of them.  A couple of ", but then"s, a few ", and then"s, and several completely different constructions.

Example: (The topic is music, and his vintage Led Zeppelin tee shirt has previously been mentioned.)
                   “Good guess.”  She pointed at his shirt.  “I like some Zeppelin.”


Re: "wet nap" -- it's a pre-packaged single-use moist towelette.  A must-have item for any parent of young children.  They are also handed out at lobster shacks and barbecue joints, where it's assumed your hands will be covered in sauce or melted butter by the time you're done eating.  (And Google tells me it's like Xerox or Band-Aid -- a brand name that has become so ubiquitous it's become the generic name for the product.  And it should be hyphenated.  Oops.)  In this case, it's for cleaning the blood off her hand and the knife.

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2015, 08:16:07 PM »
Re: "wet nap" -- it's a pre-packaged single-use moist towelette.  A must-have item for any parent of young children.  They are also handed out at lobster shacks and barbecue joints, where it's assumed your hands will be covered in sauce or melted butter by the time you're done eating.  (And Google tells me it's like Xerox or Band-Aid -- a brand name that has become so ubiquitous it's become the generic name for the product.  And it should be hyphenated.  Oops.)  In this case, it's for cleaning the blood off her hand and the knife.

Then you have her reaching for the wet nap before she's sliced her hand with a knife which isn't in her hand.

"The knife sliced the heel of her hand and she reached for a handkerchief and wet nap to clear up the blood" would make more sense

IMO yada yada

Quote
Example: "Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else."

I agree that the OP's sentence re the wishing would make more sense with an "and" conjunction, but some people's style does tend to cut it out. Which jars me as well, but it's not out of sequence so it can kind of work
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 08:18:07 PM by Francis Knight »
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Offline ClintACK

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2015, 08:25:53 PM »
Considering the book I just read, Beastings by Benjamin Myers, it was an exceptional and exceptionally rare piece of writing. There was no punctuation in the whole book, just full stops, no commas no colons nothing. I couldn't read too many like it, but it certainly made for an interesting experience of reading.

I highly recommend looking into it, if only just on the amazon look inside thing to see what its like.

Ouch.

Quote
Once when they were walking the Priest stopped and raised a hand as if to swear an oath and said listen and the Poacher said what do you hear and the Priest said just listen and they stood in silence then the Priest said I can hear a baby crying and from the far distance along the broad fell and across the tight valley they could hear the shrill unfettered screams of a creature in distress.

That's them said the Priest that's the child and the Poacher said that's not them and the Priest said how do you know and the Poacher said because that's not a baby that's two foxes rutting mark my words -- that's two foxes at it -- mating like -- I'd know that sound anywhere.

Wow.  It feels really run-on to me -- and grammatically ambiguous.  I can't imagine reading pages of that.  I get what he's doing stylistically, but it feels like a kid rushing through a story and not making sense, where you want to calm them down so they can tell it more clearly.

Offline Mr.J

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Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2015, 08:39:06 PM »
To be fair that is the opening to the book. It's not all like that :P he uses short sentences and so on, just no commas or other punctuation.

Also you didn't quote the beautiful prose :O

Quote
When the moon was a pearl at the bottom of the tarn they walked over drifts of shifting shale and wild waxy glass polished to a sheen by the wind and when the great banks of cloud rolled in and they could see neither their hands in front of their faces nor their feet on the ground they sat where they were and waited it out.


It's a hell of a book though, aside from being very brutal and dark it's quite a freeing read not being bogged down by punctuation, as well as challenging you of course.
It's also only £1 on Kindle UK atm. :)
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 08:44:36 PM by Mr.J »

Offline ClintACK

Re: Odd conjunctions and other writing tics...
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2015, 09:33:44 PM »
To be fair that is the opening to the book. It's not all like that :P he uses short sentences and so on, just no commas or other punctuation.

Also you didn't quote the beautiful prose :O

Quote
When the moon was a pearl at the bottom of the tarn they walked over drifts of shifting shale and wild waxy glass polished to a sheen by the wind and when the great banks of cloud rolled in and they could see neither their hands in front of their faces nor their feet on the ground they sat where they were and waited it out.


It's a hell of a book though, aside from being very brutal and dark it's quite a freeing read not being bogged down by punctuation, as well as challenging you of course.
It's also only £1 on Kindle UK atm. :)

That is lovely prose -- surprising word combinations and a nice poetic flow -- but still pretty unclear.  What exactly are drifts of shifting shale?  And wild waxy glass?  The latter sounds like a volcanic feature, but the former sounds like piles of crumbled sedimentary rock.  And how hard must the wind be blowing to be shifting piles of rocks.

Would that passage really be lessened if the first "and" were replaced with a period?

It feels a bit like taking a well-written story and removing all the spaces to make the reader work harder.

But I agree -- it's lovely prose.

Re: "wet nap" -- it's a pre-packaged single-use moist towelette.  A must-have item for any parent of young children.  They are also handed out at lobster shacks and barbecue joints, where it's assumed your hands will be covered in sauce or melted butter by the time you're done eating.  (And Google tells me it's like Xerox or Band-Aid -- a brand name that has become so ubiquitous it's become the generic name for the product.  And it should be hyphenated.  Oops.)  In this case, it's for cleaning the blood off her hand and the knife.

Then you have her reaching for the wet nap before she's sliced her hand with a knife which isn't in her hand.

Yes.  This was probably a terrible sentence to pull out of context to post here, because it's not at all obvious what's going on without that context.

In any case, I think I need to expand the action.  I wrote it as a single sentence to try to capture the surprise when she cuts herself, but I end up saying what happened and then having the PoV character think that the whole thing was surprisingly stylized and practiced, like a Japanese tea ceremony.  If that's the point I want to make, I think I need to draw out the action and emphasize how the woman squares up the linen handkerchief just so, to catch the blood cleanly, and so on.  Show, don't tell, yadda, yadda.