1. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Grammar AND style question re: tense.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by TDFuhringer, Jun 15, 2015.

    Please take a look at these sentences:

    1) She laughed and jumped onto the bed, which sent pillows flying everywhere.

    2) She laughed, jumped onto the bed, and sent pillows flying everywhere.

    3) She laughed and jumped onto the bed, sending pillows flying everywhere.

    Firstly, are all of these sentences grammatically correct? If so, I have a problem with all of them style-wise. Number one is clumsy. Number two doesn't feel right, but I don't know why. Number three is what I would naturally write, but the switch in tense (is it a switch in tense?) bothers me and feels wrong somehow. I'm trying to stay always in past tense. You'd think after all these years of writing I'd be past this.

    Secondly, I'm well aware that I could break these into smaller sentences (She laughed and jumped onto the bed. Pillows flew everywhere.) but a novel-length manuscript with no compound sentences gets hard to read. Can anyone give me an iron-clad way of handling a three-part sentence like this one, in a way that feels just right?

    Hi by the way. It's been a while, I know. I'm two-thirds of the way through my first novel's first major rewrite. So I've been very busy ha ha. Plus my home life got completely turned upside down over the past year. I look forward to hearing from all of you, including my old friends :)
     
  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the second one feels wrong because, when I read it, I got the sense that she laughed, jumped onto the bed, then grabbed the pillows and started throwing them. The second sentence doesn't imply that jumping on the bed is what made the pillows fly everywhere.

    I would also use the third. But I don't see it as a change in tense. I see it in novels all the time. I can't explain why I'd choose this one. I don't know the proper terms for it.. lol But to me, it doesn't appear to be confusing at all.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree that #3 is the best one, and I also don't think it is a lapse in tense. I can't point you to a rule of grammar, specifically, however. I'm sure someone here can.
     
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  4. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I prefer the sending of pillows from #3.

    It's just a feeling, but it feels a bit like ...
    ... laughed ... <comma> jumped ... in my mind indicates separate actions in time, giving a feeling as if order for some reason matters, like a list of things that were done, one after the other.
    laughed and jumped seems more of a simultaneous action, and for that reason, less "clunky". It happened, and order did not matter.

    I can't explain it. #3 just definitely feels more comfortable, in the action description (laughed and jumped) and the result (sending pillows). Sorry my explanation kinda sucks.
     
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  5. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Pillows went everywhere as she jumped, laughing, onto the bed.

    Mixing up the order of the words sometimes allows more flexibility with grammar, try it out.

    Try this out: Mix up the order of the words for more grammatical flexibility.
     
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  6. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    The pillows laughed as she flew into the bed.

    Hmm yes. Much more interesting.

    ;)
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    In sentence 2, the conjunction, and, relates 'sent' back to 'she'. So @Lea`Brooks is correct, it would mean, she laughed, jumped and sent...

    None of the three sentences has a tense problem that I can see.

    I see nothing more or less correct about "which sent" vs "sending" but I also prefer the style of the 3rd sentence. 'Sending' is a present participle but it's still correct in a past tense sentence because the action happened at the time the past thing happened.

    Just remember when you do this that the last thing in a sentence such as this is the thing that gets the most emphasis. If flying pillows is what you want to be the point of the sentence, put it last. If jumping and laughing on the bed is the thing you want to emphasize, put it last.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
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  8. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Possibly, but I didn't think it particularly mattered in this example - particularly since OP didn't mention it.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Right, it probably didn't matter in this sentence, the difference was subtle. But I still wanted to point it out because sometimes the difference is more important.
     
  10. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    I came up with a good example a moment ago:

    It dawned on him that the world had ended; they were all gone, it was all over - and he was alone.

    As he began to realise he was alone, that everyone had gone, it dawned on him: The world had ended.

    You're right in that (the way I see it) his isolation takes precedence in the first sentence, and the end of the world takes precedence in the latter.

    Anyway, getting off-topic...
     
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  11. No-Name Slob
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    # 3 wins, but consider:

    The pillows flew into the air while she gleefully jumped on the bed.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    She laughed and jumped on the bed, and pillows flew everywhere.

    This eliminates the sent/sending part, which to me seems unnecessary--she jumped, pillows flew, do we HAVE to precisely declare the connection between the two actions, when it's obvious? But it is also very close to being two sentences, so maybe it doesn't fulfill your criteria.
     
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  13. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    The pillows sound much more autonomous now, rather than being "sent flying" due to the action of an external force.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like that change, @ChickenFreak, making pillows into a subject.
     
  15. RevGeo
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    RevGeo Member

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    I prefer #3. I also like ChickenFreak's sentence. The point about emphasis is well taken. I guess it all depends on what you want to say. I suppose one could find metaphors in the pillows flying, or the pillows being sent flying. How will each emphasis affect the rest of the story, if at all?
     
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  16. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    This is a really good question.
     
  17. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No. 3 for style.

    However, She laughed and jumped... suggests that she performed the two acts simultaneously, i.e. the jump and the laugh started the very same second. So I think it needs a comma after laughed. Or She jumped, laughing, onto the bed, sending pillows flying everywhere.
     
  18. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Agreeing with everyone else, I'll say 1 or 3 are both fine. Each reads like a sentence in a YA novel to me, and I'm going to chalk that up to the verbs being so basic.

    "..., sending pillows flying everywhere." This is a present participle phrase.
     
  19. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you everyone for your insightful replies!

    I have something to think about now ;)
     
  20. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm curious. What's wrong with basic verbs? Aren't we supposed to be writing for clarity, writing stories that are easy to read and follow?

    Also what's wrong with YA novels? ;) (Which mine isn't BTW. Though this is not the first, or second, time someone has referred to my work as sounding like something from a YA novel.)
     
  21. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I didn't say there was anything wrong with it. Just an observation, not a criticism. :)
     
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  22. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Understood. I just find it interesting. Especially since YA is literally the only genre I haven't read in decades.

    Hmm. Maybe it can be my niche. :D
     
  23. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I have issues with 'onto'.

    I pictures 'onto' as jumping and then landing flat (lying down), while 'on' would be landing on the feet. Am I insane or is this correct?
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    On and onto both result in the same location, not in a different position.

    The words are sometimes interchangeable and this is one of the cases. The time they wouldn't be is when there is only location and no action involved getting there.

    The book is on the shelf. 'Onto' would not work there.

    He put the book on the shelf.
    He put the book onto the shelf.

    Both words work.

    But in the OP case, if you jumped on the bed, you might be on the bed jumping. Jumping onto the bed means from somewhere else to the bed.
     
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  25. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly.
     

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