1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    How to remove which clauses

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by architectus, Jun 3, 2009.

    This is more for style than anything else. I'm looking for examples of "which" being removed but the information remaining in tact. Thank you.


    I supposed I could change "which" to "and it," but I don't like polluting my sentences with the word and. I could write a new sentence. It ticked a little, but I don't want to do that. I suppose I could change the last clause to, "tickling them a little." Please show any other ways you might reword the whole sentence to remove the word "which" from it, yet keep all the information in tact. Thanks a bunch.

    Perhaps I could just remove which were? There might need to be a comma after considering, but I don't like it, and I think it reads easily without it.

    That reads weirdly to me, though.

    The context for the following sentence is a girl watching a guy play the violin.


    I'd just like to see how people would remove "which clauses," as I think it would give me ideas on how to avoid them because I think they sound too formal; although, I rarely use them anyway.

    And a final question: Do you think the alternatives to "which clauses" are better than using "which clauses"?

    Blessings
     
  2. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Largely, it is a matter of style, as you say. But you're right to imagine that even correctly used "which" is too often used to extend images and sentences in ways that can be improved by giving each image its own space. "That" sometimes disappears easier into the image. And "that" can often be completely omitted, with no damage at all to its surroundings (one of my own pet problems).

    As to style, here're alternatives I'd be likely to choose ...

    The turquoise water rushed over my feet, cooling them. As the water retreated into the ocean, it pulled the tickling white sand from under my toes. (Grammatically there's nothing at all wrong with your use of "which" here, and it serves to emphasize the "tickling" point more than mine does)

    Here it's hard for me to envision how she could "only compare" the dress to those in Star Wars films, given those films were foreign to her. But the further problem with this sentence is that it's cluttered with numerous images. I'd do more than one sentence, and also explain it better--incidentally omitting or using "comma, which," if you need it.

    (I'm assuming she's looking at "him" and that these lips, eyes, and fingers belong to whoever is the object of her gaze.) All she saw were erotic wet lips, ocean-blue, intense eyes, and elegant fingers that danced and played on the strings. (When I have a "which" that follows immediately after the word it refers to, I find I can usually--not always--omit the comma and use "that," instead. You'll have to make your own judgements about restrictive vs nonrestrictive usages, "which" I think are very confusing. So I opt often for "that" in cases where someone else might rightly choose otherwise.

    A good resource would be Strunk & White, or OXFORD DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN USAGE AND STYLE that says (among other things) about "which":

    "... This word, used immoderately, is possibly responsible for more bad sentences than any other in the language ... James Thurber wrote: 'What most people don't realize is that one "which" leads to another ... '"

    ODAUS also quotes ELEMENTS OF STYLE (E.B. White) here: "The careful writer, watchful for small conveniences, goes which-hunting, removes the defining whiches, and by so doing improves his work."
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You are trying a buttonhole surgery fix. Instead of finding simple word rearrangements but keeping the same sentence, don't try to jam as much into each sentence. Spread things out a bit. If you are constantly finding yourself with all these "which" clauses, you're probably tacking too many accessory items in your sentences. Your sentences are becoming lumpy with protuberances. Spread the detail out more. Use more sentences, and make each sentence capture a simpler idea. The water is swirling around your foot. It is retreating away from the high water mark. The water cools your feet. It is turquoise (pollution?). It makes the sand flow around and between your toes. It tickles.

    You don't have to break it down quite that much, but it gives you some idea of how much you are trying to make each sentence do. You're a cruel taskmaster, working the sentences that hard!
     
  4. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I love that description!
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have to agree with Dave here. I have the same bad habit. I often go back to my paragraphs to determine overuse of syntactic construction only to find that my whole paragraph consists of three sentences. I have over-compensated in the attempt to not have itty bitty tidbit sentences.

    Balance, Daniel-san. ;)
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    This is from William Faulkners, As I Lay Dying. I think if all the images (information) are closely related, they are not hard to understand as they all fold into each other in the long sentence. I don't think long sentences as such are doing too much work. If I rewrote this sentence into three sentences, it wouldn't be any easier to understand, IMO.

    But, perhaps I am trying to accomplish too much with the sentences I posted. The thing is, I want a long sentences in my writing every now and again. Maybe if I simplified it just a bit.

    Just for you can see, I use a lot of small sentences. That is pretty much all I write with, even my compound complex sentences tend to be short.

    ManhattanMss: The narrator is telling the story from the present about the past. I forget what that is technically called. I never tried to write a story like that, so I wanted to give it a try.
     
  7. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    Hi, architectus,

    The example from Falkner's plays in a way with the lovely 3-part list construction (you hear a lot of these in political speeches), e.g. here it uses three verbs in succession: 'hearing... feeling... [and again]...feeling' to build a complex clause. But it's 'uncomplicated' for the reader because readers are used to hearing things delivered in three's (I came, I saw, I conqured' etc). In yours, there's only the one: 'tickling them' and it's added on towards the end in an almost afterthought way. So I guess it kind of jars the reading a touch.

    Don't get me wrong, they are used in fiction like this (Tasting tears, she jumped). But for longer clauses, it has to be worked into an uncomplicated pattern for the reader, just as Faulkner does.

    As it stands, Cogito made a good point: ticking should be part of it's own sentence, or, you could try and work with the three-part construction. To be honest, though, I think it's a beautiful sentence without it:

    The teal water rushed over my feet, and as it retreated, it pulled the white sand out from under my toes.

    Add your senses in the next sentence...
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    So, I guess the best ways to remove a which clause is to rewrite the sentence or break it up. I've decided to break up the first two sentences, but the third one I'll leave as is with the "which clause."

    Thank you everyone for your input. If anyone else has other tricks of how to avoid to remove "which clauses" let me know.

     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    eloquently put by cog!

    and faulkner, while a writer of the highest level, was writing for readers of another time... today, that excerpt would be seen as a cumbersome run-on...
     
  10. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    "The turquoise water rushed over my feet, cooling them, and as the water retreated into the ocean, it pulled the white sand out from under my toes, which tickled a little."

    The turquoise water rushed over my feet, cooling them, and as the water retreated into the ocean, it pulled the white sand out from under my toes, causing me to stifle a small giggle due to the tickling sensation it created.


    Ahem. Anyway, I agree that the easiest way to fix 'which' clauses is to simply reduce the wordiness. However, I wanted to re-write this sentence because it looked like fun.

    ~Lynn
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I know it's a bit off topic, but the water flowing around your feet isn't turquoise unless it's polluted with copper compounds or something. It looks turquoise further out, mostly due to sky reflection, but close up, it's either clear, white with bubbles, or tea colored.

    The shallows along the beach are more greenish, from a moderate distance, because of a blend of the reflected sky blue and the yellowish sands visible through it. You can usually see very clearly where the depth increases because of the dramatic change from green to deep blue.

    Sorry for deviating from the topic, but that one really bugged me.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thanks for that, cog!... i was too lazy to comment on it myself, but living as i do, on a tropical island, and having been to many other turquoise-water-girt shores on our planet, it did bug me...
     

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