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rwam
11-17-2006, 07:53 AM
After four drafts (3.8 actually), the creative sphere of my brain is totally shot, and to avoid the process of querying, I figured I'd take one final pass through my manuscript....especially the first 50 pages. The goal? Try to get rid of as many adverbs as possible (sign of lazy writing). When finished with that, I thought it wise to remove as many instances of 'that' and 'had' (passive voice). Then I was reading something somewhere about the perils of the word 'was' (passive voice). When I did a 'find all' on 'was' it turned up roughly a gazillion and five instances of it. Yech.

Aside from adverbs, that, had, and was......are there any other hack signals I've missed? And of these 4, which are the ugliest to agents and editors?

Rob

poetinahat
11-17-2006, 07:56 AM
This is a thread I want to follow. Good question.

One word I remember getting pinged for as early as ninth grade was 'nice' (so many other, more descriptive words; 'nice' doesn't say much).

Rolling Thunder
11-17-2006, 07:58 AM
I'm just gonna be quiet and bookmark this as well. Interesting question.

ETA: On a quick note, Gary Provost has a book "100 ways to improve your writing" and I've found it helpful. There is a chapter on word power (dense verbs, strong verbs, active verbs) and active voice that is quite good. It's short (158 pgs) and costs about $7.00 US. Well worth the price.

Carmy
11-17-2006, 08:03 AM
I'm watching this thread, too.

When doing critiques, the words I find annoying are: 'just', 'very', and 'only'.

Have you searched for phrases? The one that annoys me the most includes some form of 'stood', for example: 'we just stood there' and 'I just stood'.

Don't know if that will help, but I hope it does.

Silver King
11-17-2006, 08:05 AM
I use "just" way too much. See, I did it just now.

Maybe it makes up for "wherefore." I hardly ever use that word.

Silver King
11-17-2006, 08:12 AM
Don't know if that will help, but I hope it does.
Rewritten to read, "I don't know if this helps, but I hope it does."

Besides the sentence fragment, we got rid of a "that" and a "will" in one fell swoop!;)

limitedtimeauthor
11-17-2006, 08:28 AM
Wow. Gitterdun, Silver King. Please don't go gunnin' fer any a mah posts! (Suddenly I've decided I'm going to write in redneck/cowboy language - cough, ahem, I meant redneck/cowboy talk - whilst I'm in this here grammar forum, case I mess up. Then I kin jes say I was a doin' it on purpose-like! :))

But speaking of
(dense verbs, strong verbs, active verbs), has anyone ever come out with a reference book of verbs??? Is there such a beast?

I sure do want one! It would have other verbs for, say, "walk" and include ambled, shuffled, moseyed, sashayed...

Wait - that's a thesaurus, isn't it? :e2paperba

never mind.

ltd.

not exactly the rootinest tootinest tonight

Tish Davidson
11-17-2006, 10:07 AM
I use "just" way too much. See, I did it just now.

Maybe it makes up for "wherefore." I hardly ever use that word.

I despise the use of "way" to mean far or very as in the sentence above or in "It was a way big wave." I don't mind it in dialogue too much, but its creeping into narrative. Ugh!

Silver King
11-17-2006, 10:39 AM
Tish, you're being way way WAY too sensitive.

Maybe I shoulda used "far too sensitive...";)

triceretops
11-17-2006, 10:59 AM
"so" What a killer that one is for me, especially when I love to start sentences with it.

So they walked down the path together.

Is that author intrusion? Is that trying to help the reader along? Or is that really reminding the reader that this is a story? "But" is another word I use to start sentences. What's up with that?

Another thing. Watch sentence fragments in dialogue. They might seem cool, and express some type of urgency, but too many of them can lead to choppy text.

Tri

jenfreedom
11-17-2006, 10:59 AM
I use JUST all the time too. I've given up trying to stop. I've just learned to accept it. I write a first draft and then I go back and just cut every just I find. Uh oh.

I had an English teacher in college who hated 2 words:
1) "thing" she'd always say, "There is a better word than 'thing' out there - find it."

2) And she hated "it" when used in a second sentence - for instance:

I had a dog who was so cool and one day he went to Alaska and never came back. I was so sorry that it never came back.

See, I should have used 'dog' or 'my dear pet' or something I guess instead of 'it' - I'm not really sure if this is a real rule or not but I cannot let myself write 'it' and feel comfortable. That teacher would say, "Who is IT, what is IT, what are you talking about?" Like she lost track from seven words or so before.

And unlike the person above I do like 'nice'. Sometimes stuff is just nice, not great, not amazing, nice. It's a soft word.

Nice thread! It's just such an interesting thing.

There, I fit in every wrong word!!!!

triceretops
11-17-2006, 11:15 AM
I went to my first draft and randomly picked out the first sentence. It's typical of the needless crap that I'm troweling in the text.


"The doctor so much as admitted that these beetle exteriors could be breached."

Tri

KTC
11-17-2006, 04:29 PM
I have to say a shout out for my least favourite word. THAT. Do a word search on that in your piece and make sure it's needed in every instance in which you used it.

JustinThorne
11-17-2006, 04:43 PM
I'm no editor, but I hate it when I read 'Kind of' in a book.

He found himself in a kind of cave.

It's either a cave or it isn't!

Julie Worth
11-17-2006, 04:51 PM
Was is not the problem. It was (as in It was a dark and story night) is the problem, i.e., a pronoun without an antecedent combined with a verb form of to be.

It was
There was
It is
There is
There are
It will be
and so on...

These beasties also appear in contractions: It's, There're, etc.

Kudra
11-17-2006, 05:54 PM
I'm guilty of most of the above. I'll just go cry now. :(

Declan
11-17-2006, 06:00 PM
Just write whatever the hell ya wanna write.

Dec.

MizzACEE
11-17-2006, 06:03 PM
I find this interesting as well, now does this only apply to YA books and up? I mean, I write young childrens stories and since those words are "sight words" I would assume they are good for childrens books?

CaroGirl
11-17-2006, 06:18 PM
I feel peevish about "very". I remember when I was about 9, when my enthusiasm for writing did not make up for my egregious lack of skill, and writing a sentence with three very's in a row, you know, for emphasis. Well, my ever helpful older brother scoffed at me so hard, I didn't write anything else for a while after that, so shamed was I.

Other bugaboos of mine: "you know," (I realize I used it above; I never practise what I preach) "well," "so," and I'm now firmly in the habit of stripping out my unnecessary "that"s before I even write them (yay me!).

limitedtimeauthor
11-17-2006, 07:24 PM
Yikes! This is giving me a complex! Should we really be talking about these things during NaNo? Gah! <beating back internal editor>

I'll step out of the room for now. Maybe see you guys in December, okay? :)

ltd.

Freckles
11-17-2006, 08:14 PM
Good thread, for sure! I'm sad to say that I'm guilty of quite a few of these no-no's...:(

In college, profs drilled into my head that using "in order" was pure sin. I.E. He dragged the hose over the grass in order to water the tulips.

CaroGirl
11-17-2006, 08:22 PM
Yes! I agree, I hate that one too. It's akin to "due to the fact that" instead of just using "because". And I thought of one more: "any". As in, "There weren't any people around" instead of "There were no people around." Or "The restaurant didn't have any employees to help me" instead of "The restaurant didn't have employees to help me" (or, even better, "The restaurant had no employees who could help me.")

rwam
11-17-2006, 09:29 PM
Wow, and here I thought I'd be deluged with several "this was already posted elsewhere, you bumbleskin!" type posts! Thanks for the tip, Julie, on the use of "was". Sounds like there's ok ways to use "was" and poor ways. I think "was" is giving me the most fits, though. In my 93,000 word ms, there are about 1850 occurrences of "was". That's like 1-in-50 words...7-8 doublespaced ms pages full of was was was was was.

YECH!!!

Problem is most of us write in the past tense, so "was" is inevitable. I'll look through my ms and use your "It was a dark and stormy night" rule (which, technically, is an improper 'was' embedded within a cliche!).

Thanks,
Rob

ChaosTitan
11-17-2006, 09:34 PM
"Suddenly"

I kill it without mercy.

civilian chic
11-17-2006, 10:08 PM
Okay, I've got one for you guys: Find the instances of "almost" and "about."

Example: "She was about five-foot seven." "They stayed on the island for almost a week." "It was about seven o'clock."

You're the author... just make her five-foot-seven. Make them stay exactly a week on the island, or better yet, six days and seventeen hours. Seven o'clock ... or maybe 7:06.

"Almost" and "about" are little disclaimers, warding off that imaginary reader who's going to say, "Hey, she's not quite five-foot-seven! She's five-foot-six-and-a-half! You're wrong." If we're talking fiction, no one will ever say that. Own it!!

pdr
11-18-2006, 05:06 AM
I've just been researching some markets. These editors know what they don't want in the way of words and dialogue:

1.'Stories in which the words ‘thou’ or ‘thine’ appear.'
2. 'Thou, thee, ye, any other pseudo historical words.'
3. 'Talking cats, talking swords...' (3 editors were very down on cats!)
4. 'Characters who lick or bite their lips.'
5. 'Characters who knit their brow or have furrowed brows.'
6. 'Comparing hair to any kind of pasta.'
7. 'Modifiers, especially adverbs.'
8. 'The words gingerly, moist, and topping (except in the British sense of ‘topping oneself...'
9. 'the use of $10 words and ‘heightened’ vocabularies...'
10.'...off of...'

jenfreedom
11-18-2006, 05:43 AM
Ha ha. Funny editor stuff. I'm not so keen on the cats either. I was blog surfing once and ran across a blog with this plastered across the top, "WOW, I've gotten so many more hits since I started posting from a kitten's point of view!"

Lord. Maybe it was a joke. But the blog was bubble gum pink so I assumed the worst and was outta there so fast it was like I was never there.

I think that I'm more of a sea monkey girl. Now do editors frown on sea monkeys? If so I'm in trouble.

stormie
11-18-2006, 05:58 AM
"Suddenly"

I kill it without mercy.
Suddenly I realized chaostitan is right! Suddenly is not usually needed and I do tend to rely on it. Suddenly I find I'm yawning but I have to work on a ms.revision.

Kentuk
11-18-2006, 06:00 AM
I don't advocate over using the words mentioned above but there are good reasons to use them. They are reflective of how people speak and think. We avoid them in writing because we seek a higher standard which can be in conflict with our simple story. It is better to say things simply and well rather then use obscure words and complex grammar.

Silver King
11-18-2006, 06:07 AM
I think that I'm more of a sea monkey girl. Now do editors frown on sea monkeys?
They'd be crazy if they did. Sea cows, perhaps, but never sea monkeys.:)

One that gets me from time to time, and I know the difference, is the who/that indicators. When referring to people, it's always "who," and with everything else, it's "that." It still doesn't stop me from saying, "The guy that did this," or "The girl that did that."

Frustrating.

Rolling Thunder
11-18-2006, 06:10 AM
I don't advocate over using the words mentioned above but there are good reasons to use them. They are reflective of how people speak and think. We avoid them in writing because we seek a higher standard which can be in conflict with our simple story. It is better to say things simply and well rather then use obscure words and complex grammar.

This is so true. I've been paying attention to daily conversations and I think many words are simply part of the regional vocabulary. They're 'invisible' words to those speaking.

Azure Skye
11-18-2006, 08:13 AM
Was is not the problem. It was (as in It was a dark and story night) is the problem, i.e., a pronoun without an antecedent combined with a verb form of to be.

It was
There was
It is
There is
There are
It will be
and so on...

These beasties also appear in contractions: It's, There're, etc.

Thanks for clearing that up. Little beasties indeed.

Birol
11-18-2006, 08:39 AM
Aside from adverbs, that, had, and was......are there any other hack signals I've missed? And of these 4, which are the ugliest to agents and editors?

What does everyone consider to be overuse of these words? They will appear some, so where is the line drawn? What are the limits?

aruna
11-19-2006, 05:33 PM
I tend to use the expression "seemed to.." too much.

Julie Worth
11-19-2006, 05:48 PM
What does everyone consider to be overuse of these words? They will appear some, so where is the line drawn? What are the limits?

I counted instances of "was" a couple of years ago and found that bestselling thrillers were running between one and two percent.

The percentages for my latest book:

was--1.96 (nearly the same as in Rob's ms)
that--1.26
words ending in "ly"--1.1
had--.48
have--.39
is--.33
were--.32
are--.14
sentences beginning with "It was" or "There was"--.10
suddenly--.05
has--.02
seemed to--.02
any of the words: gingerly, moist, or topping (pdr's post)--.002
had had--0

rwam
11-19-2006, 09:20 PM
Well, I've done some more research and there's some good articles already on AW (in the articles section on the main AW page).

I think there's a tendency for me to go overboard with rules, so my goal is to look at each time I use an 'undesireable' word and question it. However, I'm also going to err on the safe side for any of these 'sins' within the first 50 pages (the ones most likely seen by agents requesting a partial). Sure, that doesn't mean I don't make the rest of the book as tight as possible, but I think if an editor/agent requests a full, it means he's bought off on your writing skill and now wants to see how well you tell the story.

At least, that's the delusion I choose to live under.

Sean D. Schaffer
11-20-2006, 01:45 AM
I would think, personally, that editors would despise not so much the use of certain words, as they would the abuse of those words. After all, I read works, published through houses such as Tor*, that use some of the aforementioned words quite regularly. Some of the books have immense amounts of -ly words, yet the editors decided to leave them in for the final product.

So my personal opinion is, the use of certain words is not necessarily the problem. Rather, the abuse of the said words, would be the problem.


*The book I specifically have in mind at the moment is The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey. I'm almost done reading it now. Enjoyable work, but abundant in some of the words listed in this thread up to this point.

blacbird
11-20-2006, 03:20 AM
"No previous publications"

caw

clockwork
11-20-2006, 04:24 AM
"A lot."

My English teacher despised that combo to the extent that we even had an "A Lot Box" which worked very much like a swear jar in that any instances of 'a lot' discovered in homework incurred a penny penalty in the "A Lot Box."

Yes, it caused a s***-storm on parents' evening. :)

Silver King
11-20-2006, 04:31 AM
"A lot."
What's worse is when the two words are joined without a space. That should be worth a dollar penalty.

Jessi
11-20-2006, 11:27 AM
Wow. That's all I have to say....wow. While reading through this thread, I've made so many mental notes that it's no longer even giggle-worthy. I have the urge to go write something new for the sheer sake of seeing if I can avoid some of these no-nos.

drybonesreborn
01-14-2007, 05:10 AM
I'm just gonna be quiet and bookmark this as well. Interesting question.

ETA: On a quick note, Gary Provost has a book "100 ways to improve your writing" and I've found it helpful. There is a chapter on word power (dense verbs, strong verbs, active verbs) and active voice that is quite good. It's short (158 pgs) and costs about $7.00 US. Well worth the price.

This sounds useful. :)

maestrowork
01-14-2007, 08:32 AM
"very"
"somewhat"
"pretty/beautiful/lovely" etc. etc.
"quite"
"Well" (as in "Well," he said, "I don't know. Well, what do you think?")

and

"obfuscate"

;)

jodiodi
01-14-2007, 09:45 AM
As has been recently pointed out to me elsewhere on the AW boards, I use many of these forbidden words, phrases, and other ... stuff. (Stuff wasn't mentioned.)

I'm trying to get them out of the manuscript, but I believe I'll leave them in the dialogue. They are a part of the speech patterns of characters since we all know no one speaks perfectly all the time.

(I know I'm using them in this post---Oh, the humanity!)

Maryn
01-14-2007, 08:32 PM
I'll continue to make these 'mistakes' in dialogue, too, jodiodi. My characters don't speak like I do, but like they do.

I've tried to keep track of the ‘weasel words’ I seem to like in the narrative. Usually I can delete them all without harm, especially if the sentence is rewritten to use stronger verbs, or the passage strengthened so the reader knows better what's going on:

very, much, more, somewhat, somehow, quite, rather, particularly, specially, spectacularly, actually, really, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally, in fact, even

Of course a simple search for ly would catch a lot of these, and other needless adverbs, but not all of them.

Maryn, clawing her way up the learning curve

Rolling Thunder
01-14-2007, 08:45 PM
I'm going to reveal one of my...um...superpowers here, because I have found it very useful to myself.

http://textalyser.net/

Set the 'numbers of words to be analyzed' to 1000. Scroll down and you'll get a word count of words most used. Helps to ferret out those weasel words. :D

Cat Scratch
01-20-2007, 01:50 AM
The problem with "was" words, to clarify for some, isn't that past tense is bad. It's that there is often a more active and descriptive way to say what you're attempting.

It was raining.
Rained poured over the spectators.

She was tall.
She stood six inches above her husband.

Those are off-the-top-of-my-head not-exactly-literary examples, but it might help your mindset when using "to be" verbs.

Jamesaritchie
01-20-2007, 03:49 AM
I don't think editors hate words. Any words. It's poor use of good words that editors hate. There isn't a thing wrong with "It was" when used well. "It was a dark and story night" is a great use of words, and the only reason this phrase is now hated is because so many writers have used it that it's become a cliche. But when first written, it was a great phrase.

So is:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,. . .

All words are good words. It's the way we use them that drives
editors batty.

Saying "This is a bad word and I shouldn't use it" misses the entire
point.

Anonymous Traveler
01-20-2007, 09:50 PM
http://textalyser.net/

Very interesting site. My stuff falls in good readability and not too much excessive use.

BUT Word tells me novel is 41,000 words, texalyser says 22,000. Assuming editor will be using Word he will get the same count but this is a major difference in numerical value. Character count agrees. Any reason?

Dawn R
01-20-2007, 10:52 PM
I have just been through the editing process with my first book and was surprised at some of the points made. The editor put back in some of the 'that's, 'had's,etc I had pulled out. Mind you, she pulled out a different twenty thousand words instead! My characters turn too much, wave their hands about too much and at the slightest sign of tension, they all develop white knuckles! I'm watching for these things in book number two.

jonereb
01-20-2007, 11:38 PM
What about using words like so, it, that, just, etc as part of a conversation? These are words we use in normal discourse. Would the use of these words make the conversation more believable? For example:

"I don't think so."
"He had so much more to offer."
"So, you wanna get some lunch?"

jodiodi
01-21-2007, 12:31 AM
Let the characters talk like they're supposed to.

triceretops
01-21-2007, 01:20 AM
I'm beginning to omit the word "suddenly", since I seem to be using it solely as smelling salts to wake the reader up. I'm so ashamed. I make Deuce Biggalow, male giggalow, look like a Red Cross volunteer.

Tri

PattiTheWicked
01-21-2007, 01:30 AM
I write most of my fiction from a first-person perspective, and my narrators generally have a pretty conversational tone to them. So it's not out of the ordinary for me to have sentences that don't follow "Rules of Grammar and Style Etc", because the character speaks like people talk.

jodiodi
01-21-2007, 05:16 AM
What's really sad is: I have a BA in English and another degree in Journalism, and I still can't remember all the little esoteric rules of grammar. When I posted my prologue on the SYW forum, I was struck with horror at the errors people found in it. I cried for hours, so ashamed. But, it's helped me be more careful so the emotional trauma was worth it.

jonereb
01-21-2007, 07:03 AM
I'm going back through my MS tossing out adverb after advert. I actually like adverbs, but that's just me. However, there are a few with which I just can't seem to part. One comes on the first page. Is this likely to cause a rejection?

jodiodi
01-21-2007, 07:09 AM
I'm going back through my MS tossing out adverb after advert. I actually like adverbs, but that's just me. However, there are a few with which I just can't seem to part. One comes on the first page. Is this likely to cause a rejection?

I like adverbs as well since they describe the action. I've tried but cannot get rid of them. For example:

"She cried softly."

We know she's not sobbing, wailing, crying like a hungry baby.

Or:

"He slipped into the room unobtrusively."

Could someone please explain the logic behind doing away with adverbs? I truly do not understand. (There, used another one. I'm afraid it's in my blood.)

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-21-2007, 03:13 PM
I like adverbs as well since they describe the action. I've tried but cannot get rid of them. For example:

"She cried softly."

We know she's not sobbing, wailing, crying like a hungry baby.

Or:

"He slipped into the room unobtrusively."

Could someone please explain the logic behind doing away with adverbs? I truly do not understand. (There, used another one. I'm afraid it's in my blood.)

Sometimes adverbs aren't necessary and they clutter up your writing. In your last sentence "He slipped into the room unobtrusively", is there another way to slip into a room? Do you slip in banging a big bass drum? Singing the Hallelujah chorus? With a 40-piece marching band? No--you've said it all with "slip".

Julie Worth
01-21-2007, 04:20 PM
Very interesting site. My stuff falls in good readability and not too much excessive use.

BUT Word tells me novel is 41,000 words, texalyser says 22,000. Assuming editor will be using Word he will get the same count but this is a major difference in numerical value. Character count agrees. Any reason?

Word is correct. Texalyser isn't counting all the words with the default settings. But if you select

minimum characters per word = 1
number of words to be analyzed = 1000
apply stoplist = none

then the word count is much closer. In fact, the count is then a little high (1/2%).

Here's another word frequency counter: http://pj.doland.org/wordcounter/index.php
It works with text or html formats.

Julie Worth
01-21-2007, 04:28 PM
My characters turn too much, wave their hands about too much and at the slightest sign of tension, they all develop white knuckles! I'm watching for these things in book number two.

I had characters constantly leaning forward, so I put myself on a diet of one instance per book.

jonereb
01-21-2007, 05:25 PM
Back to the adverb question...

I'm not simply tossing adverbs, but trying to replace them by reconstructing sentences. Here's the sentence I hate to lose:

Setting aside his intricately carved smoking pipe, a malevolence hand with knotted fingers tugged the harness reigns of the horse drawn carriage.

I suppose I could say:

Setting aside his smoking pipe, carved with intricate detail...

but I like the first sentence much better. There are other sentences in which adverb replacement worked much better. Your thoughts?

Julie Worth
01-21-2007, 05:56 PM
Setting aside his intricately carved smoking pipe, a malevolence hand with knotted fingers tugged the harness reigns of the horse drawn carriage.

I suppose I could say:



Hah! I'd delete almost everything but the adverb. I'd also write it as a sentence: He set aside his intricately carved pipe. If the actual carving makes a difference, then have him look at it: He set aside his pipe, admiring the intricate carving--a malevolent hand with knotted fingers, tugging the reigns of a horse drawn carriage. One problem: this might imply that the carriage is shown, which I'm almost sure isn't the case.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2007, 06:34 PM
Here's the sentence I hate to lose:

Setting aside his intricately carved smoking pipe, a malevolence hand with knotted fingers tugged the harness reigns of the horse drawn carriage.

?

I don't even understand this sentence. Nothing after the comma is in the right tense, or even makes sense.

Namatu
01-21-2007, 06:38 PM
It's not that all adverbs must be done away with. It's the overuse of the -lys. If you're making a pass through your manuscript, circle or highlight all the -lys you run into. You may find that there are a lot, and they like to jumble all together at random times. Critically assess whether they're all needed. Some are fine. In some instances, you'll find that the sentence works just as well, if not better, restructured or without any adverb at all.

Same thing applies to the use of "just" and "only." They have their place, but sometimes they minimize the meaning of things. Just (heh heh) be aware when you use them.

My official pronouncement as an editor: I'm peeved by "that" when it should be "who" and "their" when it should be "its" (when talking about a country or organization, which are not plural). There is, however, no hope of ever correcting this misuse throughout the galaxy. It will forever be practiced.

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-21-2007, 06:40 PM
Surely the carriage doesn't have the reigns. Aren't they attached to the horse? And the fact that there are reigns, means that the carriage has to be horse-drawn. How can a hand be malevolent? (Malevolence is a noun) And where, if he's driving a carriage, did he put his pipe? He's not going to put it on the seat beside him, because it'll probably slip off, and if it's intricately carved, he's not going to want to lose it. He may tuck it in his jacket pocket, but that isn't setting it aside. I'm a trifle confused.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2007, 07:25 PM
Surely the carriage doesn't have the reigns. Aren't they attached to the horse? And the fact that there are reigns, means that the carriage has to be horse-drawn. How can a hand be malevolent? (Malevolence is a noun) And where, if he's driving a carriage, did he put his pipe? He's not going to put it on the seat beside him, because it'll probably slip off, and if it's intricately carved, he's not going to want to lose it. He may tuck it in his jacket pocket, but that isn't setting it aside. I'm a trifle confused.

All good points, and the period comes before we're actually told what the meaning of the sentence is supposed to be. The end, a malevolence hand with knotted fingers tugged the harness reigns of the horse drawn carriage., is not only in the wrong tense, it should be a clause, and doesn't even make sense as the end of the sentence.

jonereb
01-21-2007, 10:08 PM
Thanks for your comments, proof that a copy editor is a good thing. Molevelence should have been molevolent (evil). The meaning was clear to me, but without context it failed to translate. Which begs the question is the hand evil or the person to which the hand is attached evil. I suppose we could attack that sentence from all angles. But back to the main point. Adverbs can have their place if not overused. I've caught myself using adverbs that made redundant a point I had already made in the sentence.
Julie, I liked the "admiring the intricate carving" part. Thanks, all.

Del
01-21-2007, 10:43 PM
There are lots of points here. Mainly, the sentence is a catastrophe from the grammatical perspective, though I do understand it. Maybe it's just my scatterbrain thinking. :)


Setting aside his intricately carved smoking pipe, a malevolence hand with knotted fingers tugged the harness reigns of the horse drawn carriage.

My first question regards tense confusion. Setting used with tugged; I hear this all the time and understand that 'setting' is meant as 'had set' but how proper is 'ing' when used in past tense?

To dissect the sentence I'd think, well, he must have been holding his pipe or his hand would have been free. Why not put it between his teeth?

I believe malevolence (should be malevolent) is creative description, a decrepit hand, gnarly hand...a hand that looks as if it could be capable of malevolence. As such I'd have to put some form of 'looked' to modify it. If you intended that he malevolently grasped the reigns then it wouldn't seem to be the best choice of adverbs.

Intricately carved; you don't need them both. Carved doesn't have to say intricate but intricate would certainly suggest carved.

The form intended by 'malevolence' would rival knotted and I don't think both are needed. Malevolence sounds wicked and I would guess that was the idea intended as in 'wicked looking hand' but as an adjective it just caused confusion.

You cannot grab a harness in this case but neither can you have reigns without a harness. Both are not needed. Reigns would suffice.

He bit again on his intricate pipe, ported smoke from the corner of his mouth while knotted witches hands pained against the reigns and tugged the weathered carriage to a halt.

If you wanted to retain your poets license to misuse words, malevolent could be used instead of witches however I feel it gives less of an image.

This is what I got from the original sentence. I would have made this two sentences but the origonal was only one. Some like to run on. :D

If I err in diction or premise then, by all means, correct me.

ETA: I'm not picking on your sentence, jonereb. I am truly interested in understanding sentence structure and any old catastrophic sentence would have done. :D

jonereb
01-22-2007, 01:34 AM
Looking back at my original post, I realize I incorrectly (oops, another adverb) typed the sentence in question. I should have copied and pasted rather than rely on faulty memory. Oh, well. I'll not add to the confusion by trying again. Suffice it to say that I've turned the original sentence into a short paragraph incorporating the ideas in this thread. Thanks everyone for your malevolent comments. :)

arrowqueen
01-22-2007, 01:48 AM
Er, should that not be 'reins' rather than 'reigns'?

pdr
01-22-2007, 04:39 AM
Arrowqueen.

Horses have reins and Queens reign.

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-22-2007, 02:50 PM
Argh--I misspelt both reins and malevolent in my answers! I am so ashamed. When I looked at them, I thought they looked funny, but obviously didn't think hard enough. Please, no-one tell my boss I made a spelling error--I'll never live it down.

arrowqueen
01-23-2007, 02:38 AM
How much is it worth to keep quiet?

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-23-2007, 02:49 PM
How much have you got? :)

vrabinec
01-24-2007, 10:54 PM
I'm going to reveal one of my...um...superpowers here, because I have found it very useful to myself.

http://textalyser.net/

Set the 'numbers of words to be analyzed' to 1000. Scroll down and you'll get a word count of words most used. Helps to ferret out those weasel words. :D

Thanks for the link!

There seems to be an interesting phenomenon when I enter my writing. I sampeled eight chapters from my WIP and the first draft is coming out between 6 and 7 on the readability scale every time. But when I sample my blog, I come up with consistent 10's. I wonder if dialogue "dumbs down" text. I can't think of any other reason since I don't edit my blog entries. Interestingly enough, many of the writers I like such as Jane Austen score 6-7 as well (Ayn Rand scores a 17, but, as much as I like her books, I'd never try to write like her). So that aleviates one of my fears.

Soccer Mom
01-25-2007, 12:57 AM
Dialogue does in fact lower the readability scale.

And for what it's worth, reins don't attach to the harness, but to the bit in the horses mouth.

Rolling Thunder
01-25-2007, 04:21 AM
What SoccerMom said.

And somewhere on AW either Uncle Jim or PeeDee said, Issac Asimov's texts usually calculated in around a 3.8 grade level. I think Uncle Jim made the comment that a six grade level is good for reaching the largest market, but you should ask him in case I'm mis-quoting.

In any event, it just goes to show reaching higher on the scale doesn't always mean better.

Julie Worth
01-25-2007, 04:27 AM
Dialogue does in fact lower the readability scale.

I attended high school before the advent of readability scores, but I imagine I was somewhere in the readability stratosphere in those days, because no one could understand my writing. Now I write novels (presumably for adults) that come in at a fourth grade level. Dialogue, yes, it must be the dialogue.

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-25-2007, 03:02 PM
So if two people were quoting--I dunno, some incredibly verbose scientist--the readability score would be lower than if you just typed the text? I'm going to try this!

Judg
01-25-2007, 09:32 PM
So if two people were quoting--I dunno, some incredibly verbose scientist--the readability score would be lower than if you just typed the text? I'm going to try this!
If they quote verbatim it's not going to help a bit. ;)

Dialogue usually means fewer subordinate clauses, shorter sentences, shorter words, so it lowers all the averages the readability checkers are calculating.

Namatu
01-26-2007, 06:52 PM
Readability scores take several things into account. They analyze text for sentence structure, repetition of words (the more often they're used, the easier the readability level for that word), and those "rare" words that aren't commonly used in the repository of the analyzing software's library. The "rare" words will hike up your score quite a bit.

Simple dialogue will make for a lower reading measurement, but if you had two scientists bandying around scientific terms and talking about processes, it probably wouldn't do much to lower your score, even if they were using shorter sentences. Incomplete sentences are ignored by the analyzer or count towards a level of difficulty.

"Big" words help give you a higher measurement. Parentheticals also up the score. Anything that complicates the text from being straightforward and simple will knock you higher up the reading difficulty ladder. I'm not too sure about paragraph length, but it probably works the same as it does in analyzing sentence length. Longer sentence = more complicated = greater difficulty.

Such scores are not necessarily an accurate reflection of your text. For instance, if you use parentheticals to define a term, the analyzer won't take into account that you're actually helping the reader. It just sees an interruption in the simplistic format that aids a lower score.

Is, um, that more than anyone ever wanted to know about reading measurement scores? :o

similan
01-28-2007, 06:40 PM
Just write whatever the hell ya wanna write.

Dec.

:D

Namatu
01-28-2007, 11:34 PM
Yep. What he said. :)