1. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Non-Restrictive Clauses applied to Objects rather than Subjects

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ian J., Nov 29, 2012.

    Hi,

    How do people here feel about sentence structure where a non-restrictive clause applies to the previous part of a sentence's object, rather than its subject?

    To illustrate I'm using a fragment from something I've been reworking recently:

    The words in question being "...them, spread across..."

    I've been told that the first sentence of the main paragraph sounds like Harldey Kaimer is spread across the sky, rather than the stars. I don't feel that's the impression, and that context carries across the comma.
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's true that it's ambiguous, but I think a reader would have to be mendacious to read if as Harldey being spread out. There's precise grammatical pedantry and there's common sense. Yes, it would be better to get rid of the ambiguity (and what some people will see as an error), but not at the expense of lively writing.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see how that's 'lively' writing being at risk... or why it can't be improved by doing away with the poor wording and amibuity...

    a simple change from 'them' to 'the lights' [or whatever] and losing the comma would correct the problem and leave the rest of the sentence as is, if the writer wishes... however, the repeated 'was' and the rest after that is a bit of a muddle, imo... could use paring down and clarifying...
     
  4. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I've actually already re-written that section differently, though not to change the specific 'problem'. One thing I am aware of is that I have used the form elsewhere and haven't felt it wrong, so I wanted to gauge opinions on it before I either continue using it, or pro-actively change it to something else.

    In the case above, I've noticed it's possible to reposition the comma for a different effect but still retain the same meaning, together with a little tidying up of the following description:

     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure what that achieves. The stars are the only possible referent for "them" and that part is conventionally constructed. You could keep it and lose the comma, getting the same effect without an ugly "elegant variation". In the UK I reckon one could keep the comma to help with the pacing of the sentence, but maybe that's another place where the USA is stricter. Yes, the tail end of the sentence could be tidied up, but that wasn't the part we were being asked about.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    imo, you still need to lose that first comma, to have the description refer clearly to 'them'...

    and 'while' is something of a problem for me, as well...
     
  7. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    :) I read your mind.

    Both of those were removed a few days ago in my current version. I'm not comfortable with posting multiple revisions here though in case it's seen as trying to get round the 14 day/20 post/2 constructive criticism rules as it is part of a larger whole that I'd like to submit for review here later.

    Even though it's changed for the example given I'm still inclined towards using the non-restrictive to object link elsewhere, so I think I will just have to live with the criticism it gets.
     

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