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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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!

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OK, continuing to breathe life into this group... I'm back with another of those 'don't do' rules which are just screaming out to be broken: filtering. 

I've searched my MS for 5 filtering words so far and the thing is I think I like them, I've deleted/changed hardly any. I'm starting to wonder if my ear is off or if the rule is just a bit overstated. Here's an example - the context is the protag is in an unpleasant situation with several kids making fun of her (teen audience), her thoughts about what's going on and why are interspersed with observations of her surroundings, including the Jacaranda tree:

I gazed up at the ferny leaves and wondered when it would burst into violet. How I’d loved playing that game with its flowers: Agua, café o leche? Water, coffee or milk? I felt the press of the trumpet-shaped flower between my fingers and saw the sticky juice oozing from its mouthpiece: leche.

So, based on filtering no-nos I should be considering cutting/changing: gazed, wondered, felt, saw. BUT I like our awareness of her meandering mind, switching from the critical situation she's in to drifting observations and a re-experiencing of a past more childish activity (which contrasts with her current struggle with puberty) and I can't think of another way that works to give the same feel.

Does anyone else struggle with this?

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Since there's been recent discussion about em dashes and semicolons, here is the beginning of a new story. I've been playing around with this beginning using em dashes, periods, and semicolons to both seperate and link the sentences, and I think I like this version. It will still need editing, but, just for style, what do you think?

‘You’ll be okay,’ he said. ‘You have to face your fears.’ I half shook my head. I was brave, I knew I was, but the ride was far too high – even though I wanted to see the ocean in the distance – even though I wanted to be away for just a few minutes, and let the sea air blow me away – even for him, and he knew I knew it.

To add to this. Here is the second paragraph.
He sat me in the damp seat and buckled the belt. ‘It won’t go fast, will it?’ I asked, knowing I wouldn’t believe him if he said, ‘No’.
I realise have 'No' in speech marks like this is probably the correct way, but it somehow doesn't look natural to me.

....if he said no.  

Would that work in this instance?

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OK, I want to put something to you just out of curiosity. I'm doing a big edit and keep coming back to this sentence:

There was a red wax seal with a Hogwarts crest: Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus and a white feather was tucked under the coarse, beige string.

(The Latin is in italics in the original but for some reason it won't let me keep them here.)

I think I keep going back partly because of the 'there was' construction (a Harry Bingham pet-hate) and partly because of the passive voice. But we're talking about a parcel which my narrator is describing so passive kind of fits.

My reworking has come out as:

A Hogwarts crest was stamped into the red wax seal — Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus — and tucked under the coarse, beige string was a distinctive, white feather.

So I've lost the 'there was' but not the passive. AND I've tried to reposition the important bits for more effect (the crest at the start and the feather at the end). 

So what do you think? Is there an improvement? Am I missing something?

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Does this need the comma, please?
You will have to look after yourself again, and be glad of what we had.

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Eileen got the picture, all too clearly.

What is the best way to punctuate the above, to really emphasise the 'all too clearly', please?
Would sentence fragments be better?  Eileen got the picture. All too clearly.