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Thread: Is there a Grammar Nazi in the house? (Q re parenthetical expressions)

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Evelyn_Alexie's Avatar
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    Unhappy Is there a Grammar Nazi in the house? (Q re parenthetical expressions)

    I'm wrestling with a note my editor left in my ms. I do NOT see the following as a parenthetical expression, and I think the punctuation is correct as is.

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest and--could it be pity?

    The editor wanted me to replace the m-dash with a comma. She said it's a parenthetical expression and thus should have two dashes or two commas. I think she's plain wrong. Am I delusional?
    The above text is a natural product.
    Slight variations in grammar & spelling enhance its original character and are not to be seen as defects. Especially since Autocorrect has a mind of its own.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    This is what I'd do:

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest and--could it be?--pity.

    Better yet, I'd break up or rewrite the sentence.

  3. #3
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evelyn_Alexie View Post
    I'm wrestling with a note my editor left in my ms. I do NOT see the following as a parenthetical expression, and I think the punctuation is correct as is.
    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest and--could it be pity?

    The editor wanted me to replace the m-dash with a comma. She said it's a parenthetical expression and thus should have two dashes or two commas. I think she's plain wrong. Am I delusional?
    It probably should be:

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest and--could it be?--pity.

    You do need the second em-dash because "could it be" needs to be set off in some way. I think em-dashes work better than commas. But you could circumvent the issue entirely by changing up the construction:

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest. Or could it be pity?
    Last edited by BethS; 12-23-2017 at 12:56 AM.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
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    Just throwing my two cents in, I agree w/Beth and would rewrite it.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Evelyn_Alexie's Avatar
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    I agree the sentence could benefit from a rewrite. (Well, along with most of the rest of the story.) But what I was trying to find out was whether it was incorrect as it stands. Is that a parenthetical expression?

    Beths suggestion was good. The editor's suggested rewrite had been to take the first comma and make /that/ a dash or make them both commas. That's when I started to wonder if I was confused or if she was.
    Last edited by Evelyn_Alexie; 12-23-2017 at 01:35 AM.
    The above text is a natural product.
    Slight variations in grammar & spelling enhance its original character and are not to be seen as defects. Especially since Autocorrect has a mind of its own.

  6. #6
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Minor tangent, I really dislike the casual use of Nazi to describe anything other than, well, Nazis. Be that breastfeeding nazi, grammar nazi, or feminazi.

    Anyway, apologies for the derail!

    yes, I would say it is a parenthetical expression, as I understand the term. An aside to the reader, almost.
    Last edited by Harlequin; 12-23-2017 at 10:09 AM.
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  7. #7
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evelyn_Alexie View Post

    The editor's suggested rewrite had been to take the first comma and make /that/ a dash .
    That could work, but I think you'd need to change "and" to "or."

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest--or could it be pity?

    And possibly consider changing "it" to "that."

    If you really want to keep "and," maybe--

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest...and pity?
    Last edited by BethS; 12-23-2017 at 03:44 PM.

  8. #8
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WriterBN View Post
    This is what I'd do:

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest and--could it be?--pity.

    Better yet, I'd break up or rewrite the sentence.
    I think it's reasonable to do it your way, but there are many ways to get the main point across--that the viewpoint character is wondering if the other character's interest in her may be due in part to pity. No one way is better in all circumstances, and the reader's perception of the voice and personality of the pov character will be affected by the choice made. The flow of the sentence will change if you write:

    His body was wiry and strong, and the dark eyes that met Lia's were bright with interest--and could it be?--pity.

    The change in where one pauses mentally as they read changes the emotional tone a bit, imo.

    I might try rewording it too, but that would depend on how that sentence integrates into the rest of the piece with regards to voice, style, narrative viewpoint etc. The appropriateness and efficacy of voice-ey expressions in narrative can be tricky to judge in isolation.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 01-04-2018 at 04:22 AM.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    I might try rewording it too, but that would depend on how that sentence integrates into the rest of the piece with regards to voice, style, narrative viewpoint etc. The appropriateness and efficacy of voice-ey expressions in narrative can be tricky to judge in isolation.
    Yes, I agree. If it were my work, I'd probably rewrite the sentence.

  10. #10
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    Minor tangent, I really dislike the casual use of Nazi to describe anything other than, well, Nazis. Be that breastfeeding nazi, grammar nazi, or feminazi.
    Me too.

    I find it extremely distasteful.

    Moving on, I'd rewrite the sentence. It sounds somewhat cliched to me.

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