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tko
10-26-2012, 08:10 PM
He wiped his hands on his pants.

Seems like a simple sentence. But we have three words that are redundant. He, his, his. Are they all needed?

He wiped hands on pants.

If you make the sentence longer, the pronoun removal doesn't seem as strange.

He stood, wiping his hands on his pants, and glared down at her.

He stood, wiping hands on pants, and glared down at her.

In all case the shortened version s/b fully understand (unless you think he could be grabbing someone else's hands, and wiping them on someone else's pants), perhaps a little terse/awkward in the wrong scene, perhaps a little catchy/tight in the right one (after a murder?)

On the other hand, you would never remove "the" from a similar sentence, so maybe you should never remove the "his" from the above sentences

He wiped the brush on the wall.

He wiped brush on wall.

No way will the second sentence ever be acceptable. So, can I remove possessive pronouns in certain stylistic situations?

His hands in his pockets, eyes held high, he strolled onward.

Hands in pockets, eyes held high, he strolled onward.

Bufty
10-26-2012, 08:15 PM
To your last question the answer is yes, and there's nothing wrong with the last example -except that 'eyes held high' reads oddly in any context unless the eyes are of the detachable variety. :Hug2: Even then, it would be hard to hold them high with one's hands in one's pockets. ;)

Aim for clarity within context.

Xelebes
10-26-2012, 08:17 PM
To me it sounds awkward and requires context and specific idiom usage.

Only in the last, stylised one did it work.

Fallen
10-26-2012, 08:54 PM
Hands in pockets, head held high, he strolled onwards. Would be fine.

And Bufty is spot on: "Eyes held high" gives a strange image of eyes being held... high (wandering body parts) :)

Nekko
10-26-2012, 09:02 PM
It depends on the structure of the entire sentence. Just removing the 'his' from He wiped his hands on his pants = he wiped hands on his pants - sounds awkward to my ear.
In the original sentence it didn't jump out at me as being repetitious to have he, his, his. Just like I don't usually notice the tag he said

fadeaccompli
10-27-2012, 12:40 AM
In a sentence like the first one given, "his" doesn't stand out because it's effectively replacing the definite article. "He wiped his hands on his pants" = "He wiped the hands on the pants"; we know which hands, and which pants, are involved.

If you say "He wiped hands on pants" it sounds like there are some vague number of undefined hands floating around, which he is wiping over some other unspecified pants of indeterminate number.

Now, in context, it's usually going to be clear, but it does sound awkward in English, because English tends to specify possession when body parts, relatives, and clothing comes up. (Probably a few other categories too, but those are what come to mind.) And English is finicky about its articles, if not as much so as some languages. Not having a definite article means you're using the indefinite article, essentially, when it comes to plural nouns. So removing the possessive (which is replacing the definite article) means that you're making these things sound indefinite.

In any case--you can get away with it as a stylistic choice. But it's not as simple as "remove extraneous words", any more than it would be removing superfluous verbiage to cut every instance of "the" out of a sentence.

blacbird
10-27-2012, 09:15 AM
"He wiped his hands on his pants" is a completely straightforward simple sentence, devoid of complication or misunderstanding, and is exactly correct, in almost any context. Don't overthink this stuff.

caw

LAgrunion
10-27-2012, 01:02 PM
He wiped his hands on his pants.

Seems like a simple sentence. But we have three words that are redundant. He, his, his. Are they all needed?

He wiped hands on pants.

If you make the sentence longer, the pronoun removal doesn't seem as strange.

He stood, wiping his hands on his pants, and glared down at her.

He stood, wiping hands on pants, and glared down at her.



I think the first sentence is the best. The three pronouns don't bother me. It sounds the most natural. When I read it, it just flows right by. I wouldn't have even noticed the pronoun issue if you hadn't mention it.

I don't see a way to rewrite it so it's simpler, more natural, and convey the same meaning.

jaksen
10-27-2012, 05:24 PM
"He wiped his hands on his pants" is a completely straightforward simple sentence, devoid of complication or misunderstanding, and is exactly correct, in almost any context. Don't overthink this stuff.

caw

Such is true.

Don't worry about occasionally repeating a necessary word or similar word, in this case he and his. If we would speak it that way, then we would write it that way.

I had a teacher once, not a very good one, who advised not to repeat any words, per page, unless they were words like 'a, the, and.' But he was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. (Wow, four wrongs in one paragraph; he'd give me an F on this for sure.) In a diff. thread I was counting adverbs on random pages of a King novel and found the word 'simply' on one page three times.

But in your example, your first sentence is the way to go.

retlaw
10-27-2012, 07:11 PM
"He wiped his hands on his pants" is a completely straightforward simple sentence, devoid of complication or misunderstanding, and is exactly correct, in almost any context. Don't overthink this stuff.

caw

Ding!

Susan Littlefield
10-27-2012, 10:31 PM
"He wiped his hands on his pants" is a completely straightforward simple sentence, devoid of complication or misunderstanding, and is exactly correct, in almost any context. Don't overthink this stuff.

caw

This. It's a fine sentence. Seems to me you indeed are over thinking, TKO.

Rufus Coppertop
10-28-2012, 04:55 AM
Ditto.

absitinvidia
10-28-2012, 06:00 AM
No way will the second sentence ever be acceptable. So, can I remove possessive pronouns in certain stylistic situations?

[I]His hands in his pockets, eyes held high, he strolled onward.

Hands in pockets, eyes held high, he strolled onward.


This is unintentionally hilarious, but also not physically possible. How is he holding his eyes so high if his hands are in his pockets?

Jamesaritchie
10-28-2012, 07:28 PM
He wiped his hands on his pants.

Seems like a simple sentence. But we have three words that are redundant. He, his, his. Are they all needed?

He wiped hands on pants.

If you make the sentence longer, the pronoun removal doesn't seem as strange.

He stood, wiping his hands on his pants, and glared down at her.

He stood, wiping hands on pants, and glared down at her.

In all case the shortened version s/b fully understand (unless you think he could be grabbing someone else's hands, and wiping them on someone else's pants), perhaps a little terse/awkward in the wrong scene, perhaps a little catchy/tight in the right one (after a murder?)

On the other hand, you would never remove "the" from a similar sentence, so maybe you should never remove the "his" from the above sentences

He wiped the brush on the wall.

He wiped brush on wall.

No way will the second sentence ever be acceptable. So, can I remove possessive pronouns in certain stylistic situations?

His hands in his pockets, eyes held high, he strolled onward.

Hands in pockets, eyes held high, he strolled onward.

Except in the last case, I think you're wrong. As the writer, you know exactly what you mean, exactly what picture you want to put in the readers mind, but the reader doesn't know what you're thinking, only what you actually write. No matter how long you make that first sentence, it's still wrong. Length doesn't change the image those first six words convey. Though, "wiped" probably works much better than "wiping".

It isn't that I think he's actually wiping someone else's hand son his pants, but that's still the image that comes to mind. It's like such silly phrases as "He turned on his heel". Really, where was the switch? Or, "His eyes moved over her body". No, they didn't. Eyes do not jump out of a person's head and move over someone else's body.

And you hold your head high, not your eyes. Even "head" gives an odd image, but the usage is so common you can get away with it. But not eyes. Being able to hold your eyes high might come in handy when you're trying to see something on the other side of a wall, but, no, don't write it.