1. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    Reflexive Pronoun Trouble

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Rague, May 25, 2013.

    Reflexive Pronoun and Subject Agreement Trouble?

    * This turned into a little more than reflexive pronoun trouble; if interested, please refer to the most recent post in this thread.

    Microsoft Word keeps telling me about "Reflexive Pronoun use."

    I have this sentence, which I felt may have been a run-on:

    At first, the plan was tricking a child-sized weapon of mass destruction that had a rather annoying streak of drawing attention to himself into stealing the scroll.

    So I tried rewriting it:

    At first, the plan was tricking a child-sized weapon of mass destruction, that had a rather annoying streak of drawing attention to himself, into stealing the scroll.

    Word is telling me:

    Use pronouns ending in "self" in conjunction with a noun, as in "Andrew himself" or when the pronoun refers back to the subject, as in "I hit myself." Use "own" in conjunction with a pronoun only when referring back to the subject.

    Instead of: They heard herself on the radio.
    Consider: They heard her on the radio.

    ---

    If and when I change "that had a rather annoying" to "who had a rather annoying," Word wants me to change "who" to "which," which really doesn't serve the same meaning for what I'm referring to. Somehow I just don't buy that you can only use words ending in "self" directly after a person's name or action.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but that's a muddled mess of a sentence no matter what way you slice it...

    is the 'weapon' an actual child?... if so, calling it a 'child-size weapon' is not a good idea... plus, 'that' refers to a thing, so should be 'who'... that may be what's confusing word re the 'himself' problem...

    and if you only meant the size of an actual weapon, it's still a bad idea, because it's confusing..

    'plan was tricking' makes no sense... you seem to mean 'was to trick'...

    'that had' needs to be changed to 'who had' or 'with' to read better and make better sense...

    and 'streak' makes no sense in that context... you seem to mean 'habit' or 'penchant'...

    the whole thing is overworded, will work better if you apply 'less is more' and the 'K.I.S.S.!' principle... all of which could leave you with:

    but it's still cramming too much into one poor sentence... would be best divided into two sentences that are clearer in meaning and make better sense...
     
  3. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    Thank you kindly.

    I was trying to convey that sentence from a character's perspective; the narrator does not view the 'weapon' as a person, they do view them as a thing, so I felt 'that' would be more effective because the audience, fortunately, is aware of the character's motives. I'm sorry, I'm using narrative bias as a defense.

    The weapon is a person; the narrator views the person as a thing. The person, a child, is viewed as a weapon, so from the onset of the story, the narrator, in his mind, only views this person/child as a 'that', an 'it', a 'thing'.

    Stupid mistake on my part.

    At first, the plan was to trick a child-sized weapon of mass destruction who had/that had a rather annoying streak of drawing attention to himself into stealing the scroll.

    My fault again.

    At first, the plan was to trick a child-sized weapon of mass destruction who had/that had a rather annoying habit of drawing attention to himself into stealing the scroll.

    "Keep it simple, stupid." Heh.

    I really need to work on that one, because the tone is supposed to be frank.

    Sorry, this is turning into a lot more than just reflexive pronoun trouble. I'll give it a shot, but can I keep the narrator's voice in at the same time? I want him to be frank-sounding, so in my head it sounded like - the plan was - as opposed to - the initial plan was.

    This is the context, if it helps or alleviates any of these errors: A traitorous character is reflecting on his initial plan to steal a village's prized scroll. His plan is to murder those in his way and make off with it, while his original plan was to have a young boy steal it, and the traitor notes that this was a stupid plan because the boy is actually very noticeable and important to the village as its superweapon. The traitor views him as a weapon, non-human. The traitor is also in the midst of getting away, so the narration, I felt, should sound smooth and frank, because the traitor is pretty confident in his escape.

    These were some variations I tried based on what you said:

    One sentence:

    At first, the plan was to trick the little weapon, who had an annoying streak of drawing attention, into stealing the scroll.

    At first, the plan was to trick a young weapon of mass destruction into stealing the scroll.

    Two sentences:

    At first, the plan was to trick the little weapon of mass destruction into stealing the scroll. Unfortunately, he had a rather annoying habit of drawing attention.

    The first plan involved tricking the village's little weapon into stealing the scroll. The boy, however, had a rather annoying habit of drawing attention to himself.

    Do these come across better?
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Heed Mamamaia's words. The issue in this sentence has nothing to do with reflexive pronouns. Word is giving you a nonsense error because the sentence is overlong and the dependent clauses are too deeply nested. Word simply doesn't know how to deal with the convoluted syntax. You need to break this monster up.
     
  5. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    I'm waiting for him to see my variations. I'm not sure if I can still supply the same information if I break that sentence up any further than those variations.

    What I need to convey is:

    - Third person narrator.
    - The narrator/character does not think highly of the 'weapon'/child. He views him as non-human.
    - The narrator had a plan, which he realized was stupid.
    - Said plan involved sending a very noticeable person to steal something.
    - The person is notorious for drawing attention to himself; reinforcing why the first plan was silly.

    ---

    Are you saying these re-done sentences are still convoluted, overlong, or too deeply nested? If so, then I'll work on them.

    One-sentence:

    At first, the plan was to trick the little weapon, who had an annoying streak of drawing attention, into stealing the scroll.

    At first, the plan was to trick a young weapon of mass destruction into stealing the scroll.

    Two sentences:

    At first, the plan was to trick the little weapon of mass destruction into stealing the scroll. Unfortunately, he had a rather annoying habit of drawing attention.

    The first plan involved tricking the village's little weapon into stealing the scroll. The boy, however, had a rather annoying habit of drawing attention to himself.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No, no. My reply is to the original poster. I would have quoted your post otherwise. :) Regardless of the convolution of the original sentence, which is seriously convoluted, it's a huge string of tell. The OP is missing volumes of show in the attempt to give this one, ultra condensed, sentence. The problem is actually a few steps further back in the chain of events than just, "What's going on with this reflexive deal?"
     
  7. CheckeredFoxglove
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    CheckeredFoxglove Member

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    I like this one. It's very clear, it establishes that the narrator doesn't respect the weapon ("little" isn't a very respectful word), and it does all the other stuff you mentioned. I added "to himself" because it needs it, and the antecedent is obvious this time.

    I'm assuming that it's already established that the weapon is alive. If so, then this works; if not, it'll be confusing no matter what you do, unless you say "weapon-child" or something.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd be careful about breaking sentences up just because Word says to. Word is an idiot. Word's grammar checker is hopelessly inadequate for anything but the most basic prose. Maybe the "monster" needs to be broken up (I don't know - I didn't really read the original post), but if so, it had better be for a better reason than that Word says so.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Trust me, I'm well aware that Word is an idiot. Every time I head a subjunctive phrase with were instead of if, it tries to correct me. It's grammar skills are pedestrian at best. My advice is based solely on the fact that the sentence is a beast.
     
  10. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    Thank you. I'll need to focus on improving the clarity of my sentences.

    If it's not too much to ask, would either of you know of or recommend a more accurate, more 'intelligent' word-processing program then? These comments are a bit disconcerting. I don't really have that many people I could trust to peer-edit my stories, and it'd be rather tedious to have to constantly search for grammar and mechanics assistance on the internet. I'd prefer a program that can catch these things with more accuracy than Word.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    which 'him' are you waiting for?

    as for grammar-checking software, i doubt you'll find any that are any better than ms word... or that are worth what they cost... your best 'software' for this task is the one inside your skull... if you 'program' it with more data on basic grammar and constant reading of good writing, you won't need to spend money on costly grammar checks...
     
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  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The above gets all of my yes, and I'm borrowing some yes to add extra yes to the yes, because... yes. I speak with the same level grammatical precision as I look for in my writing. I do not allow myself a casual work-a-day idiolect, because tools that are never honed (words are tools) will function poorly when pressed to task.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's not too much to ask, if such a thing existed. English grammar is actually a pretty tough problem for computer programmers. It's complex, fluid, variable - very difficult to pin down into a reasonable algorithm or set of algorithms. Writing is an art - English composition is an art - and as soon as a new grammar-checking program emerges, some artist of prose writes a beautiful sentence that violates its rules.

    There is simply no substitute for learning grammar yourself. The task of writing grammatically-correct prose cannot be offloaded onto a computer. You have to do it yourself. Mammamaia is right.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't ever depend on a software program for grammar or spelling (grammar is much noe difficult). Use them only t help you quickly spot what you may have missed, but you MUST become a spelling and grammar expert to write well.

    No non-sentient computer will ever analyze grammar better than a competent human grammarian.
     
  15. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    I had a faint feeling that would be the answer. Nevertheless, I'll keep that in mind.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The main problem I'm seeing is this - why on earth is the weapon referred to as "him"? I know he's meant to be a person, but as a sentence that is out of context, it is nonsensical to write it like that. You must first establish that the person is regarded as a weapon, and only then assign a gender to him.
     
  17. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    I wrote a few variations since the OP so you're going to have to be more specific.

    I'm confused as to what you mean here.
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What is meant is the following:

    There is a failure of agreement in the sentence as regards the pronoun himself and it's antecedent, the proper noun to which it refers. Child sized is a descriptor, an adjectival phrase. It is not a noun, so the himself cannot refer back to it. Weapon of mass destruction is a noun, a noun phrase in this case, but a weapon is a thing, not a person, so himself cannot refer back to it either. And the remaining portion of the sentence, into stealing the scroll is so far removed from it's actor, the child sized weapon of mass destruction, that it seems like a fragmented clause that has no antecedent.
     
  19. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    So I can't use the antecedent himself to refer back to a 'weapon of mass destruction', rather, it should refer back to a person, in this case a boy who is considered a WMD by the narrator.

    And into stealing the scroll shouldn't be placed at the end of the sentence because it's too far away from its actor.

    Can I fix this by simply turning it into two sentences?

    I also made another variation, referring to the 'person' first, then calling them a 'weapon' in the next sentence, while still using himself. Is 'himself' still too far away?

    If all else fails, I've attempted to reword this sentence as well:

    ...itself? himself? What will get rid of this green line Word keeps putting under 'himself'?

    "Drawing attention to," I feel, has to be used in this context somewhere, but perhaps that's not the right idea.
     
  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Of the three, this one. The first sentence establishes a clean chain of S.V.O. and that the actor is, in fact, a child, not just some random thing that is the size of a child. Since we have an established reference, the second now uses weapon of mass destruction as a metaphor. Nothing is going to get rid of the green squiggly in any of the versions that contain weapon of mass destruction being referenced by himself. Word doesn't like that weapon is the antecedent for himself. Metaphor is not a concept Word groks. This is why a firm grasp of the dynamics of grammar and syntax within the squishy grey matter of your mind can never be replaced by the cold silicon wafers of a machine. ;)
     
  21. Dorotha
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    Dorotha New Member

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    wow... that sentence has a boatload of information in it Maybe split into two? The first giving the bits about him and his function and habit of making himself known, and then the second saying,"now the trick is to get him to go after the scroll."
     

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