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Old 01-27-2013, 07:07 PM   #1
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To The or not to The

Just read where a guy's wife looked like "the actress Jean Simmons."

Is that better than writing "looked like actress Jean Simmons"?

I've read in (snarky) magazines that a celebrity married "one Jack Smith."

What are your thoughts? (Okay, this topic probably applies more to magazines, but I've always wondered.)
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:11 PM   #2
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Context is all.

Can't say I would stop to wonder about any of these too much.
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:13 PM   #3
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What Bufty said.
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:14 PM   #4
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In this case I wouldn't use "the actress", just "actress." Notice every time they give celebrity news in TV or online, they say "actor George Clooney" or "actor Richard Gere" instead of "the actor George Clooney" or "the actor Richard Gere".
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:16 PM   #5
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,
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:19 PM   #6
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Obviously one can write it either way. It depends on which best suits your intentions with a piece.

For instance, dropping the speeds up the pace. That's just one example.
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:21 PM   #7
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,


What does this mean?
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:23 PM   #8
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I would say don't compare the wife to Jean Simmons at all. Especially if you don't think the reader will know who she is, which is suggested by using 'actress'. What's the use of comparing someone we can't see to someone we've never heard of?
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:23 PM   #9
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Poor little comma wants to be remembered- that's all.
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Old 01-27-2013, 07:25 PM   #10
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Old 01-27-2013, 08:43 PM   #11
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I would say use "the" if you need to distinguish between two people with the same name. If, for example, there was an actress names Jean Simmons and a well-known author with the same name, then I would. But that's more a personal preference. Using "actress" or "actor" probably isn't necessary otherwise, but of course, there are people like me who lost track of actors/actresses sometime after the 80s so might need a hint as to who's being discussed...
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Old 01-27-2013, 10:42 PM   #12
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I'd just say "looked like Jean Simmons". If readers know who Jean Simmons is, you don't need "actress". If readers don't know, using "actress" isn't going to help, and they still won't have a clue how the wife looks.
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Old 01-27-2013, 11:05 PM   #13
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Perhaps in this case it was used to distinguish between Jean Simmons and Gene Simmons (the latter being a less flattering comparison).
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Old 01-27-2013, 11:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eparadysz View Post
Perhaps in this case it was used to distinguish between Jean Simmons and Gene Simmons (the latter being a less flattering comparison).
Could be worse. Could be Richard Simmons.

(As to using "the" or not: This depends on sentence rhythm. Let your ear tell you.)
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Old 01-27-2013, 11:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DennisB View Post
Just read where a guy's wife looked like "the actress Jean Simmons."

Is that better than writing "looked like actress Jean Simmons"?
"actress Jean Simmons" feels like journalese. You have the license - maybe the obligation - to take out the article to save space, even though I don't think it's grammatical in standard English. All things being equal, listen to your ear, as JDM says.
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Old 01-27-2013, 11:46 PM   #16
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Best of all is probably to describe Jean Simmons, without using her name. If you must, use the article (and Bufty's comma after "actress").
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Old 01-27-2013, 11:52 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DennisB View Post
Just read where a guy's wife looked like "the actress Jean Simmons."

Is that better than writing "looked like actress Jean Simmons"?

I've read in (snarky) magazines that a celebrity married "one Jack Smith."

What are your thoughts? (Okay, this topic probably applies more to magazines, but I've always wondered.)
So who is Jean Simmons and what does she look like?

Michelle Pfeiffer twenty years ago having a really good day?

Danny DaVito in a frock with a really bad make-up job and a shocking hangover last Monday?

Inclusion of current brand names and comparison of fictional characters to actual celebrities cheapens novels in the eyes of a lot of readers.
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:05 AM   #18
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Jean Simmons was an actress in the 'forties through 'sixties. This is what she looked like.
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:05 AM   #19
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You use a definite article to add emphasis or to differentiate between things, so it could be that there is more than one Jean Simmons, in which case you're saying 'the actress, Jean Simmons' as opposed to, for instance, the celebrity chef Jean Simmons.

But in all honesty, I think it's just a style thing. To me it sounds better to use the definite article when making comparisons, but a comma is needed.
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:51 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DennisB View Post
Just read where a guy's wife looked like "the actress Jean Simmons."

Is that better than writing "looked like actress Jean Simmons"?

I've read in (snarky) magazines that a celebrity married "one Jack Smith."

What are your thoughts? (Okay, this topic probably applies more to magazines, but I've always wondered.)
I'd say -- don't make comparisons to obscure people. Thanks to Uncle Jim for posting a link to a Jean Simmons photo, because otherwise I would've been forced to Google her, never having heard of her before.

When you compare a character to something or someone, you want to produce an instant visual, not a blank canvas.
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:29 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eparadysz View Post
Perhaps in this case it was used to distinguish between Jean Simmons and Gene Simmons (the latter being a less flattering comparison).
Even here, if the reader doesn't know the difference by the spelling, saying "actress" won't change it. If a reader has no clue what Jean Simmons looks like, saying "actress" won't change this.
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Old 01-28-2013, 04:44 AM   #22
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"My wife looks like Jean Simmons. The actress, not the musician."
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:29 AM   #23
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The presence or absence of the definite article is immaterial. Either works. As a reader, I'd never notice.

BUT: If you're going to compare someone's appearance to that of a famous person, you're well served to make sure the comparative celeb is REALLY well-known. As in, universally. "Jean Simmons" doesn't work for me, and I'm an old bastard. I know she was a famous actress, but I wouldn't recognize her face in a lineup of famous actresses of her era.

Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis (either the thin one or the fat one), Groucho Marx, Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, those figures are pretty much timeless, known to everyone. Jean Simmons? Not so much. Nor Gene Simmons, either, without his makeup.

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Old 01-28-2013, 09:04 AM   #24
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And i don't think it matters, personally. It depends on how you want the sentence to flow.

But as Bufty noted, it's "The actress, Jean Simmons."

If you drop "the," no comma is needed.
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Old 01-28-2013, 09:34 AM   #25
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I would write it without the the.
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