Check that sentence

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Check that sentence

I'm new to Oxford and Jericho Writers, and thought it might be helpful to have a place where we can submit sentences that we would like feedback on, whether we are struggling with them, proud of them, or just testing them out. Critiquing a sentence is certainly less daunting than a paragraph or chapter, encouraging more of us to chip in. While the Elements of Style and Google can answer many of our questions, nothing beats feedback from a fellow writer!

As with the other groups, there's no judgement here; we're all learning.

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This is my one sentence pitch for a middle grade fantasy novel.

While journeying through the supernatural realm, will her twitching ears, gripping feet, unique powers and annoying blinking crystals be enough to complete the mission and stop the creepy, that's creeping in shadow creature - the halfling fay is about to find out.

Any feedback would gratefully be received.

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Cocooned in my hoody, on Spellbinder a chair at the top of the garden, where I’d gone to hang out, everything felt kinda hopeless.

This is my first sentence of my middle grade novel written in first person past tense. Just not sure about it? Any thoughts?

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I'm currently working on editing my fantasy novel, and was wondering if I could get feedback on these sentences:

"I visited the hidden room frequently. I made sure that I wasn’t followed each time, but I was never sure that I someone hadn’t escaped my notice."

I feel like the sentences shows what they're supposed to, but seems clunky and don't drive my point through as much as they could. Any advice on how it could be improved?

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Hey all! I've not written on here for a while, but I'm scratching my head while writing this scene. There are two boys, and in some sentences it is ambiguous as to who I am referring to. I've simplified the sentence so that context is irrelevant:

'When Jack first started mocking John, he had protested.'

The 'he' should refer to John, but that's not clear. 'When Jack first started mocking John, John had protested.' sounds clumsy. Should I just abandon this structure and go with 'John had protested when Jack first starting mocking him.'?

Any thoughts much appreciated! As I say, I've simplified the sentence so I don't have to explain the context - I'm more interested in the CONVENTION, and general rules than Jack mocking John.

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I've lurked in the group long enough and thought it was time to ask about a sentence that I just can't seem to get right. It's the middle sentence, couched between short, rather straightforward sentences. I get hung up on it, whether I read it silently or aloud.

It didn't take Rhys Adler long to see there was something queer about the guy. Nothing gay or anything, and Adler wouldn't give a damn about that anyway, but queer--as in funny, odd, not quite right--was the word culled from the twisted diction of his mind. At the very least, the guy just didn't belong.

Any suggestions for untangling that middle sentence? Different (better) punctuation? Possibly breaking it up into two sentences, even if I commit the sin of starting the second sentence with "But"?

Perhaps at a later time I'll ask thoughts on the appropriateness of using the word "queer" at all. I don't want to offend, of course. I do, however, want to arrest the reader's attention and "queer" does reflect the character's inner dialogue. The whole paragraph, I think, helps set the book's slightly hard-boiled tone.

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The sentence I’d like to ask about this time concerns the MC reflecting on living in a Communist city the first day of her residence. It’s the third one below, "A mask of statues…" An editor suggested adding ‘that speak’ after ‘names’ to enhance the elegance of the prose, and she made this type of suggestion in a couple of other places. In this instance, I don’t think that the addition of the two words adds elegance or much else, and given the subject, I’d favour as concise a sentence as possible. However, the editor is very respected, and the critique she did for me was full of penetrating insights. So, I wonder if I’m missing something. What do you think ?

She has given little thought to living within the Communist face laid over Prague since her family’s escape. A mask, Jarek called. A mask of statues, plaques and street signs, a public web, thick with names of violence and trumpery: Lenin, Gottwald, Victorious February.

With the addition, the passage would read "…a public web, thick with names that speak of violence and trumpery…"


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Good evening everyone,

My last post started, ‘It’s me again.’ So I guess all I can say is, ‘again & again & again.’

I’d like a check on a 2-sentence sequence, please. I’ll explain briefly what precedes it. Katherine is going to the American embassy to slip human rights reports in the diplomatic pouch when she sees a detail of Czech police checking IDs for admittance. Although her passport is in order, Katherine’s residence permit is not exactly official. She’s been hired to teach English by a progressive headmaster whose contacts in the Communist Party enabled him to obtain a 3-month extension of the original permit that she received as a grantee directly from the police. Her work ‘permit’ is simply her contract. Normally both residence and work permits would be granted by the Ministry of Education. When the policeman sees her papers, he thinks he’s caught her in an irregularity and pulls her aside. His first question is simply to confirm that she’s a teacher. He’s condescending, and that has already angered her. His second question is whether she’s gotten her post through the Ministry (he knows she hasn’t). This is her response :

“Ne.” She looks steadily into the cruel eyes, says inwardly, ‘I have highly placed connections’, knowing that that will show in her own, and responds with three carefully chosen words: “přimo přes reditele” – ‘directly through the headmaster’. Mind lucid, smiling lips up top, stomach churning below. Absurdist theatre, Czech style.

QUESTIONS are about the last 2 sentences, "Mind lucid… Czech style." First, is it clear that they are K’s thoughts, not the narrator’s. Second, are they unnecessary, intrusive, or do they add ? If so, what ? Should I invoke a variant of Jon’s RUE – RUC ‘Resist the Urge to Comment’ ? Thank you very much.

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Hi everybody, It's me again. I'm going to put the sentence I'd like checked in a bit of context and highlight it in italics. (NB: the father was in a country occupied by the Nazis, he was no demonstrating from safety. This should be clear from the passage, but just in case...)

"This cap was my father's protest against the Nazi occupation. If you demonstrated in the streets in nineteen thirty-nine, you were shot on sight by the SS. But they had no idea that these caps were a symbol of Masaryk and the First Republic. My father and his friends wore them as a secret sign language."

I'm thinking especially about the best material to end the sentence with. An alternative wording would be: 

"If you demonstrated in the streets in nineteen thirty-nine, the SS would shoot you on sight."

Some might object to the first version, because of the passive voice. I think that the passive voice can be useful when a subject is acted upon, and this sentence is definitely a case in point. I prefer the first version to the second, even though "shoot you on sight" is a strong ending, because "the SS" is also a strong ending, and because I think that the conditional of "would shoot you" weakens the statement.

What do you say? Any comments beyond responses to my own are also welcome. Thank you so much.

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Hi everyone, Here are two sentences about which I have some questions:

The boulevard is a sea of red and green and orange ski jackets. Katherine, Jarek and Saša find a spot with clear sightlines to the balcony, high above the crowd just as the moderator’s welcome booms off the stone and glass façades.


i) sentence 1: I like joining the colour adjectives with "and" twice. To me, a single "and" after "green" reads more like a list & suggests less profusion. What do you say?

ii) sentence 2: It is clear that it is the balcony that is high above the crowd and not the spot which the friends find?

iii) sentence 2: Is it clear that the "stone & glass façades" are those of the boulevard, or do you think I need to replace "boulevard" in sent 1 with another word and add "of the boulevard" or something similar after "façaces"?

Thank you very much. All other comments welcome.

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Hi Everybody,

Following a development edit, I am posting two sentences, each in two versions, which I’d appreciate comments on. I had a great developmental editor, but sometimes she suggested changes which seemed too literary for the scene in question and/or wordy. NB: My language is American English, but the novel in question is in British English (it’s more of a European than an American novel), and that was my editor’s language. While I am familiar with a number of differences in vocabulary, idiom and syntax, I certainly don’t master all, so, it’s possible that the revisions in these cases were simply more in line with British English.

In both the examples below, I prefer my shorter and less formal phrase (in italics) to the revision. Could you please tell me whether or not you agree, and why. Thank you so much.

1) original version: Kristina indulged her little sister as a messenger, and led in Katherine’s best friend Carrie, whose bowl haircut perfectly suited her to play Libuše’s commoner husband Přemysl, complete with ploughman’s pouch and woven shoes. 

2) edited version: Kristina indulged her little sister as a messenger, and led in Katherine’s best friend Carrie, whose bowl haircut made her perfectly suited to play Libuše’s commoner husband Přemysl, complete with ploughman’s pouch and woven shoes. 

1) original version: Katherine spent half her weekly allowance to keep Carrie in liquorice sticks for this reluctant act of friendship…

2) edited version: Katherine spent half her weekly allowance to reward Carrie with liquorice sticks for this reluctant act

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Does this make sense. The dalliances of the mind, are best left to their own devices.

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Hello all, hope you're managing to avoid the hail (in May... what the...)

I've got a couple of sentences today. These might be stylistic decisions, but if there's a grammar rule, please let me know.

A) His heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

B) Heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

C) With his heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

(I appreciate that there are numerous variations, such as 'His heart hammered as he picked up...', but I'm more interested in any general rule with this type of sentence opener than the actual sentence itself, so that I can apply it globally)

D) ...and landed in the water between two rocks.

E) ...and landed between two rocks in the water.

- I'm sure there's a rule here! It may well be time to dust off those grammar books.

Many thanks in advance!