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Old 12-10-2011, 07:42 PM   #1
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"Then" vs "And then" vs "And"

I could use some opinions on the following sentences. Thanks!


The handsome man smiled at her, then winked.

The handsome man smiled at her and then winked.


She walks inside then pushes the door closed.

She walks inside and pushes the door closed.


She takes a deep breath, looks back, then descends into the darkness.

She takes a deep breath, looks back and descends into the darkness.
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:59 PM   #2
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I'm new at this too and learning so my opinion might not be right.
Here's my suggestions:

1. The handsome man smiled winking at her.

2. She walks inside pushing the door closed behind her.

I see nothing wrong with the last sentence.
3. "She takes a deep breath, looks back and descends into the darkness."

Like I said I'm a noobie and still learning. I have problems with this issue too. I'm interested in what more experienced writers have to say. Good luck.
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:13 PM   #3
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This keeps coming up - here was the last one

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=226920
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:16 PM   #4
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Thanks Bufty. That is helpful. The problem in my case is that I'm not arguing with my spell check, I'm arguing with my editor...but it sounds like a lot of people are on my side.
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Old 12-10-2011, 09:37 PM   #5
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I think that muchof the discussion is misplace, then again, maybe it isn't. "Then" isn' oneof the words on the list that can begin independent clauses after a comma, except in an "if-then" statement. In many cases either the "if" of the "then" is omitted from such a statement, so then can be acceptable by itself sometimes. Otherwise, It's best to start another sentence. In the examples that you gave
Quote:
The handsome man smiled at her, then winked.
This one does need a comma at all.

Quote:
The handsome man smiled at her and then winked.
This one is O.K., but I think that, "The handsome man smiled at her, and then he winked," would be better.

Quote:
She walks inside then pushes the door closed.
This would be better in the past tense, but it is grammatical.

Quote:
She walks inside and pushes the door closed.
I think the same of this as the prior sentence.

Quote:
She takes a deep breath, looks back, then descends into the darkness.
This would also be better in the past tense:
"She took a deep breath, looked back, and descended into the darkness"

If you are writing a series of verb clauses, then you should use the commas to separate them. The matter of "and" and/or "then" is not an issue here, because you did not make them independent clauses. If it's a matter of the editor wanting all to say "and then", then you might suggest that it's usually a good idea to vary verbiage sometimes. Long series of clauses the start with "and then" seem breathless, as if a character was rushing around and getting nothing done.

Last edited by Snick; 12-10-2011 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 12-11-2011, 12:44 AM   #6
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The handsome man smiled at her, then winked.

This is good usage. The comma represents the missing 'and' in your next example:

The handsome man smiled at her and then winked.

Both are correct, just different variants.

I'm not keen on 'The handsome man smiled at her, and then winked' as it seems more a stylistic choice than a grammatical one. It brings back the old 'use a comma for a pause'.


She walks inside then pushes the door closed.


Some will say this is okay: two predicates to one subject, so therefore no 'and' used. Some will argue it's not, that you need the coordinator between 'then':

She walks inside and then pushes the door closed.

As this is just a style issue, consistency would be the answer (pick one method and stick to it)

She walks inside and pushes the door closed.

I think the arguement would be can that you can't do both actions together (walk inside AND push the door). You'd need the 'then':

She walks inside and then pushes the door closed.


She takes a deep breath, looks back, then descends into the darkness.

Just looking at it grammatically:

Punctuation suggests you're doing three actions in a sequence here.
1: takes a deep breath
2: looks back
3: descends into darkness

She takes a deep breath, looks back and descends into the darkness.

Punctuation suggests two actions:
1: takes a deep breath
2: looks back AND descends into darkness.

Well, if 'descends into the darkness' is a state of mind then, okay if it's she's moving down into darkness, I'd question 'how' if she's looking back. Lol.

Either is correct depending on when you want the 'action sequence' to happen. But again, if it's a state of mind that she's descending into, you can have her look back and descend into darkness. If it's two actions: looking back, descending, I'd question whether you could do both at the same time without falling over.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:29 AM   #7
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Using then to replace and is not grammatically correct yet, but it is used often in novels, so as long as the publishing house digs it, it's all good.

I think it is just a matter of what flows best per sentence.

It really depends if you want the action to follow the first action or not. And seems to be used for things that happen simultaneously.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toogrey2 View Post
I'm new at this too and learning so my opinion might not be right.
Here's my suggestions:

1. The handsome man smiled winking at her.

2. She walks inside pushing the door closed behind her.

I see nothing wrong with the last sentence.
3. "She takes a deep breath, looks back and descends into the darkness."

Like I said I'm a noobie and still learning. I have problems with this issue too. I'm interested in what more experienced writers have to say. Good luck.
In such sentences, a comma is needed.

She walks inside, pushing the door closed behind her.

Personally, I would avoid writing too many sentences with the ing.

She walks inside and pushes the door closed behind her.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AP7 View Post
Thanks Bufty. That is helpful. The problem in my case is that I'm not arguing with my spell check, I'm arguing with my editor...but it sounds like a lot of people are on my side.
I think you are doing well with your editor if you, guys, don't have any bigger fish to fry.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toogrey2 View Post
I'm new at this too and learning so my opinion might not be right.
Here's my suggestions:

1. The handsome man smiled winking at her.

2. She walks inside pushing the door closed behind her.
These two example have their own problems. In both the examples use a ed ending word which is a past participle and then a ing ending word which is present participle.

In #2, she walks inside, pushes the door closed behind her. This sequence misses a lot. How can someone push the door close behind her?

I agree more with Fallen about the comma replacing and with used with then...

"You're an asshole," she said, then shut the door in his face.

In a case like this, the comma separates the dialogue tag from the after action and works better IMHO than she said and shut the door.

And yes, how ever you do it, consistency is the key...
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Old 12-11-2011, 04:26 AM   #11
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Is consistency the key? Because I thought we were mixing up word choices to keep some variety...but maybe the problem is I dont quite have a handle on the gramatical particulars but I know what feels right in the flow of the story.

I wrote:

"Go on," Mario said, then put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

My editor changed it to:

"Go on," Mario said. Then he put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

I dont think it's horrible as two sentences but it's a bit more economical as one sentence.
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Old 12-11-2011, 05:48 AM   #12
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Quote:
"Go on," Mario said, then put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

My editor changed it to:

"Go on," Mario said. Then he put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.
There's nothing wrong with your original at all. It looks like your Editor purely opted for clarity. They gave it a subject of its own and made the sentence (Then he put the fork...) independent.

You could play around with the Editor's suggestion a number of ways:

"Go on," Mario said, and then he put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

"Go on," Mario said; then he put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

"Go on," Mario said. Then he put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

When I said consistency, I meant there are only so many ways you can represent something (eg: the above has the danger of running into a comma splice if not punctuated properly, and (to some) you need to represent it as such in either of the ways above. Doesn't mean you have to pick one and stay with it: you can vary between the options so long as you don't go: "Go on," Mario said, then he put the...' ('then' is argued not to be a coordinating conjuntion so you need to punctuate as in the examples above, or rewrite it in another way)).

Your version is different from your editor's, but still perfectly good, and I like the feel of it too. It's working one subject with two predicates:

'he said, then put the fork in his mouth

Perhaps your editor is working more on easing the flow of images. Yours is more compact with two images, (you get that run-on feel 'he said then...'). The Editor has broken that up.

But it seems you have a clash purely of style here and compromise may be the best solution.
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Old 12-11-2011, 06:03 AM   #13
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It may be a house style issue with that particular publisher/editor...
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Old 12-11-2011, 08:44 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the input. You guys have been very helpful.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:15 PM   #15
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It would be interesting to see which way you go with this. Will you let me know?
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Old 12-12-2011, 04:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fallen View Post
It would be interesting to see which way you go with this. Will you let me know?
I'm self publishing the novel, so the final decisions are mine. But I'm certainly taking a good look at the manuscript and these issues are all over. So, I'm trying to vary them up and add stronger words where possible. Sometimes use a semi colon or period, other times use "and" but I am definitely keeping some of the commas in place of "and" because I think it flows. Thank you for helping me with that.
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Old 12-12-2011, 05:02 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AP7 View Post
Is consistency the key? Because I thought we were mixing up word choices to keep some variety...but maybe the problem is I dont quite have a handle on the gramatical particulars but I know what feels right in the flow of the story.

I wrote:

"Go on," Mario said, then put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

My editor changed it to:

"Go on," Mario said. Then he put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

I dont think it's horrible as two sentences but it's a bit more economical as one sentence.
It could go either way, but your version is more graceful.

I personally might have written it like this--

"Go on," Mario said, and put the fork full of pasta in his mouth.

Though if you're self-publishing, how is it that you have an editor?
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Old 12-13-2011, 06:16 PM   #18
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The handsome man smiled at her, then winked. (This one flows better)

The handsome man smiled at her and then winked. (This sentence structure reads a bit clunky)


She walks inside then pushes the door closed.

She walks inside and pushes the door closed.

(If you use the first sentence, then you need a comma after
"then"; the second one is okay, but better would be: She walks inside, pushing the door closed behind her.


She takes a deep breath, looks back, then descends into the darkness.

She takes a deep breath, looks back and descends into the darkness.

(Either of these work--I would prefer the first, because it structures a temporal chain of events; although in the second sentence, I would add a comma after "looks back")
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:51 AM   #19
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BethS, you can hire editors.
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Old 12-14-2011, 09:08 PM   #20
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Can be one heck of an extra expense when self-publishing a novel - with absolutely no guarantee the cost will be recouped.

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Old 12-14-2011, 11:42 PM   #21
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Can be one heck of an extra expense when self-publishing a novel - with absolutely no guarantee the cost will be recouped.
Also no guarantee you'll end up with editor who knows what s/he is doing, and who can avoid wrecking an author's natural voice.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:27 PM   #22
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My vote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by AP7 View Post


The handsome man smiled at her, then winked.


She walks inside and pushes the door closed.


She takes a deep breath, looks back, then descends into the darkness.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:53 PM   #23
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Then is not a coordinating conjunction; it is an adverb that can be used as a conjunctive adverb. When used as a conjunctive adverb, then gets a semicolon (maybe an EM dash) in front of it. When then is just an adverb it gets no punctuation before it. We can all vote on grace or what we like best, but it won't make a coma spice any more palatable to an editor or agent.


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Old 12-15-2011, 09:25 PM   #24
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Then is not a coordinating conjunction; it is an adverb that can be used as a conjunctive adverb. When used as a conjunctive adverb, then gets a semicolon (maybe an EM dash) in front of it. When then is just an adverb it gets no punctuation before it. We can all vote on grace or what we like best, but it won't make a coma spice any more palatable to an editor or agent.
There were no comma splices in AP7's original post.
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