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  1. #451
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpion View Post

    And what if you use contractions in narration, but vary in dialogue. For example, the King says "I do not see him." and the urchin says "I don't see him." Doesn't that somehow degrade your narration?

    I hope you understand the question. Cheers!

    No, it doesn't degrade the narration. The choice of contracted or uncontracted verb forms is a matter of voice and tone. There was a time in history when most people did not use contractions (or the same contractions we use today--sometimes different ones.) Use of contractions varies with situation (there's a formal linguistic term for usage changing with situation but I can't remember it right now...sorry...no, there it is, "register") and some characters will not recognize that the situation requires the change. (For instance, the child brought up in a very polite, formal household may use "sir" and "ma'am" to all adults when answering questions, but won't when talking to friends...the child brought up in a nonformal household won't use "sir" and "ma'am" at all.)

    Contractions are generally read as less formal, more hurried, and/or less serious and less official. So the king saying "Do not come to me with this complaint" or "I will ride after breakfast" is showing a more formal, more official register. The head groom in the stable might well say "Don't come whining to me about that!" and "The king's coming to ride as soon's he's eaten breakfast; there'd better not be a speck on that bridle or you'll have welts on your back." The choice of contracted or uncontracted forms allows the writer to set the tone of a conversation and reveal character--so they must be protected from officious copy-editors. (I had one awful copy editor who went through reversing them all the way through the book--both ways. Made no sense at all, but that copy-editor did many things that made no sense.)

    If a character typically uses contractions, his/her change to uncontracted form will have meaning...will be read as emphatic. If a charater typically uses uncontracted forms, the use of one will be read as relaxation of the character's self-imposed formality. (Causes are many.)

    Strict conformity in both dialog and narration means losing the opportunity to shade tone, characterization, pace.

  2. #452
    Has a custom user title! Yjar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julian View Post

    __________________________________________________ ____



    I haven't changed all that much, but mentioning all the small points would take a while. In general, I'd suggest not too many adjectives ("confused, blurry, wet, and completely lost"). Also: keep an eye on the actual story.

    As to that story:

    1. I'm assuming there's a reason for the prisoners being remarkable? You might wish to elaborate on that, just a tad. The fact that "each of them resembled the other in height" doesn't quite hit the mark.

    2. I've changed the ending, a bit. Two reasons: (a) to give the guards - Kiren especially - a little substance and (b) to make the boy a little more plausible. Confused as he is, I don't see the boy inventing a name just off the cuff; I do see him repeating the butcher's suggestion of a name. This keeps alive the concept of him being someone else altogether.

    All well, just some thoughts. I liked the story, by the way, but don't quite see it all happening as you describe. The guards are, perhaps, too gullible.
    Thanks. My biggest issues are everything ya' pointed out. What I wrote is not part of the story, but you're definitely right. I should post the prologue when I finish it sometime, great critique. Better than an 850 dollar writing course. Sigh.

    Have a good night :P

  3. #453
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    As far as effect and affect.....Any good associations that will help me to remember?
    Affectation is a noun as well, isn't it?
    Could you remember one letter, and associate it with a simpler thought/idea? Then you only really have to remember one half of the mnemonic; you choose which.

    E for effect: mnemonic= special effects ("F/X"). Something, hence noun.

    A for affect: mnemonic= a...ct, act (upon st/sb). A verb (as well as being a part of speech that has a subject) expresses action or something that happens, hence affect = verb (rather loose definition for illustration purposes only).

    Or an alternative explanation. Simply try to associate the problem words with similar words which forms (parts of speech) you never forget. Adding "s" to the problem words would make this much simpler, IMHO.

    Effects: special effects, F/X, effective (an adjective, a word that describes a ????).

    Affects: What affects you most/least...? [causes a "reaction"; to cause = to do something (another loose definition for illustration)] = verb.

    Or yet another way to think about the problem; one simple phrase that is very easy to remember:
    " Cause and Effect " with the (an article, which we know precedes a noun) Effect being the what which happens/is the "outcome of" the causing act.


    Hope this affected affectation has an affectedly affecting effect on your ability to effectively affect an effective effect vs. affect reflex.

  4. #454
    Quote Originally Posted by E_Moon View Post
    ...and "The king's coming to ride as soon's he's eaten breakfast
    'is Maj'sty, the King'll be 'av'n 'is ride, doon 'ad 'is mornin' meal 'e 'as.

    Sorry, couldn't resist. Good point, well-made.

  5. #455
    Quote Originally Posted by Julian View Post
    I haven't changed all that much, but mentioning all the small points would take a while. In general, I'd suggest not too many adjectives ("confused, blurry, wet, and completely lost")
    General rule of thumb for adjectives is: no more than 2 if spoken,
    no more than 3 if written. Your mileage may vary (poetry vs. prose).

  6. #456
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    She gave a polite, if not friendly, smile.

    This means..?
    1. Her smile was polite and might be friendly.
    2. Her smile was polite but not friendly.

  7. #457
    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post

    This means..?
    1. Her smile was polite and might be friendly.
    2. Her smile was polite but not friendly.
    Ah, is the glass half-full or.... The best choice of the two, IMO would be #2,
    as #1 suggests "possibility" as opposed to probability, in stark contrast to the word "not". Whereas #2 has a more definite, probable meaning (square pegs in square holes and such blather). But the focus of the thought is (as I read the example) on "polite". Polite is polite, neither friendly (as in gregarious, engaging, happy to see you again; but possibly so) nor unfriendly (I really don't like you, Eeeuuww! It's you again.; more definite, concrete meaning / idea). Touching on the "glass" analogy, I see it as a matter of weight or emphasis. In spoken English, the problem would be much more easily solved based on how the sentence might be spoken. But the written word is very much open to the reader's ________ (you fill in the blank; experience, outlook on life, present mood, hopes and desires, state of health, etc.). Following that tortured logic, we are led to choose between the weight of meaning or intent of the two. On the one hand polite is definitely more friendly than not friendly. And we know readily that "not friendly" well, isn't. "If" in "if not friendly" suggests (on the face of the word) possibility as in "possibly not friendly", whereas "not" suggests a definite negative. All of which leads me to choose #2, with the weight of actual meaning being more on the negative than the positive. If could be construed as meaning but in the example because of the fact that the sentence contains a negative (not). As you know we humans tend to place greater importance on negatives than positives (sadly) as an integral survival trait. For the reader to readily place greater emphasis on the possibility (however remote, possibly) of the more positive choice, would IMO be akin to the salmon stubbornly swimming upstream (against the current) to die (albeit, so that more of its kind may live) whereas swimming downstream (or better yet out in the deep) is much easier on the face of it, a clearly "against the grain" analogy if mildly out of "perfect" context.

    A better choice might be: "...was polite, neither friendly nor unfriendly.", but English is usually not spoken so formally, or with such precision , with much meaning being conveyed through metaphor, idiom, reference (spoken or unspoken), context, example, etcetera. But that would of course depend entirely on the thought / imagery the author wishes to attempt to convey to the reader (non-nonchalance, disconcerting, non-committal, distance, or whatever). Without more context, the intended meaning is hard to pin-point. Although I have a several grammar texts laying around with "common mistakes" examples of which I am sure IF vs. BUT is one, I can't seem to find it at the moment. It would be best if you could look up the actual "rule" rather than take note of my haphazard opinion.

    Eagerly awaiting posts to the contrary, and reasoning therefore.

  8. #458
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Haha, DyedNTrue! You managed to twist about a zillion meanings out of that.

    She gave a polite, if not friendly, smile.
    I read this as meaning: She gave a polite smile, not a friendly smile. Gives me the impression that the person viewing the smile expected something else.

  9. #459
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    She gave a polite, if not friendly, smile.

    This means..?
    1. Her smile was polite and might be friendly.
    2. Her smile was polite but not friendly.
    I consider both interpretations possible, and I'd rely on context to make sense of it.

    Adverbs to the rescue:

    Meaning 1.: She gave a polite, if not even friendly, smile.
    Meaning 2.: She gave a polite, if not exactly friendly, smile.

    I suppose that this constellation of words has no clear literal meaning on its own, because in many contexts both meanings express the same communication. Um, that sounds complicated. Let me try again.

    First, there's semantics, what the words actually mean. "It's cold in here," is a statement about temperature. Then, there's pragmatics, what the words are supposed to communicate. "It's cold in here, don't you think?" could well be an invitation to close the window.

    Now, it's entirely possible that two different literal interpretations of the words could result in the same practical effect.

    Here's an example I found in the BYU-BNC (the British National Corpus):

    Ants stumble into the pit by accident and, because it is constructed of friable soil or sand and has steep sides, they have to struggle to get out. The task is made more difficult, if not impossible, by the ant-lion.

    I could write an essay about estimation vs. knowledge, the semantics of difficult vs. impossible. The formulation "if not impossible", however, here has the pragmatical function of forestalling such a discussion. The section is about the preying behaviour of the ant lion; the odds of survival for the ant are a side point, and the phrasing suggests this. Whether it achieves the point by escalation (more difficult --> impossible!!!) or by a cautious disclaimer (well, not impossible, but - yes! - more difficult) doesn't really matter. We'll get the point of the text.

    Note that your sentence is different, in that the interpretation has an actual effect on how a reader imagines the smile. Is it an ambiguous smile that could - maybe - be friendly? Or is it a polite smile, which is better than nothing, although the writer would prefer it to be friendly?

    Glancing through the corpus examples, for most of them it's not important to resolve the ambiguity. They function much like the ant-lion section above. It does make a difference, but the difference it makes is de-emphasised by the text, so that people rarely bother to ask the question. [It's a British Corpus; I haven't tried any of the American Corpora at the same page, as I don't know their syntax and I'm too lazy to find out, today.]

    So my - unhelpful - answer: it could mean both. Context matters.

  10. #460
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    She gave a polite, if not friendly, smile.

    This means..?
    1. Her smile was polite and might be friendly.
    2. Her smile was polite but not friendly.
    She obeyed the proper social etiquette by smiling, but did not display/betray any signs of familiarity or personal warmth in that smile.

    Without context, I'm just guessing. But that's usually what a sentence of that sort means.

  11. #461
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    I’m ever amazed at the complexity someone who knows what they’re talking about can find in a simple sentence. If I’m reading these answers correctly, the sentence has a bit of ambiguity but skews heavily towards the more negative meaning.

    Thank you very much for your answers.

  12. #462
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Language is anything but simple

  13. #463
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    I just stumbled across something that confused me a bit, using 'were' instead of 'was' when talking about someone in third person. I´ve read it a couple of times this last week (probably always do but never think about it) and today I read it in George RR Martin's A Clash of Kings. Can´t seem to find it right now but for example:

    "If he were a bigger man."

    Is it somehow connected to 'if' or are there other rules?

  14. #464
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    ""if he were..."

    Present Conditional, I believe.

  15. #465
    Speaks fluent Bawehrf zachariah's Avatar
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    Just to expand on Window Bar's answer:

    The conditional aspect of 'were' means that a phrase like "if he were a bigger man" cannot just hang there without some further statement.

    For example, you would expect it to be followed or preceded by a condition:

    If he were a bigger man, he could move that rock.

    We'd have no problem with that ogre if he were a bigger man.
    Now you could use 'was' in those sentences and they would still work. In fact, most modern English writers would use 'was' - the use of 'were' has a distinctly archaic feel in this context, so it's not surprising you'd come across it in high fantasy rather than everyday speech.

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