1. Darkhorse
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    Darkhorse Member

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    Avoiding ambiguity: the tree trunks grew thicker

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Darkhorse, May 20, 2013.

    I wrote the sentence below today and I realised that it was ambiguous and probably grammatically incorrect. I don't want the reader to think the trees are visibly growing as the MC walks; rather, I would like to convey that the tree trunks are very large, and increasingly so, relative to those at the edge of the forest. I could say so explicitly, as I have done just then, but that seems unwieldy and wordy.

    Do you have any tips for eliminating ambiguity?

    [Not sure if this is a valid discussion or a problem due to the first day back writing in a while.]



    Or, maybe as below, which I also don't like.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Is the board acting up? You have duplicate threads 5 minutes apart.

    I'm not that partial to either one. I need more info.

    I don't think it's ambiguous. But what is it you are trying to convey? Does the change in tree size have a purpose? Is the forest just getting denser?

    This one's too wordy. Or maybe the word choices are bothering me. "He noticed" hmmm, needs more, like a reaction that tells us something about how he felt besides 'noticed'. Was it ominous? What did thicker trunks mean to the character?
     
  3. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Personally, I wouldn't worry about using a few more words to help avoid ambiguity. Trying to keep things so short and terse doesn't always work and almost always invites a lack of clarity. But it doesn't necessarily follow that short = ambiguous or long = clear!

    Anyhoo, I have no problem with the length of the second version. It could do with some 'colour' though. 'Walked' is a bit basic, and 'trunks' and 'thicker' are a bit, too.

    For what it's worth, this is what I felt was trying to come across in the sentence:

     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I think either sentence is fine, but I wouldn't use the word "grew" - it made me think that they were literally growing before character's eyes. I would possibly use "became thicker." :)
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I might drop the whole walking thing if this 3rd person limited? It's like, he wouldn't know this if he hadn't walked there, so you don't have to mention it (of course you can!). Maybe throw some simile there.

    Deep in the woods, the tree trunks were as thick as ______. He could harldy see where he was walking; the foliage was so thick, blotting out the sun...

    I don't know, that just sprung to my mind. I wouldn't probably use "grow" because trees literally grow, so it's a bit confusing.
     
  6. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I think the problem here is the word "grew". Grammatically, your first sentence is fine.

     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Could use actual names of trees -

    As he walked further into the forest, thin trees gave way to wide redwoods.

    - not that thin is an actual name of a tree.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why are there two of these threads?... you need to ask a moderator to combine them..
     

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