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  1. ManicHedgehog
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    ManicHedgehog Member

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    Strict pronoun agreement?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ManicHedgehog, Apr 9, 2009.

    I'm opening my story with a sentence that I'm afraid is running into some pronoun agreement problems.

    My story's first paragraph reads:

    Brendan was 12 minutes late. Well, 12 minutes and 23 seconds late, to be exact, but no one wanted to appear as if they been staring at the clock the whole time, even though it was no secret that they had.

    The problem I have is that "no one" does not agree with "they," but the proper way would be to say "he or she". The people in this group are both male and female, so a simple "he" does not apply. "He or she," however, sounds awkward.

    Most of the time, I wouldn't give a second thought to just putting "they" and moving on to avoid awkwardness, but I'm trying to edit this story for possible publication, and I want to make sure everything is right.

    Thanks in advance for the help.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No one would find it objectionable, and they can go to blazes if they are that anal retentive.

    Seriously, you could probably write around it, but it proably isn't worth it. If you reworded it to agree in number, it would probably sound awkward and wrong.

    The only concern I would have is that the opening sentence usually gets the closest scrutiny of any sentence in the story. But I still think it would be ok.
     
  3. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only thing I'd change is this:
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here is how I would write that paragraph:

    "Brendan was 12 minutes late . . . well, 12 minutes and 23 seconds late to be exact, but no one wanted to appear as having stared at the clock the whole time, even though it was no secret they had."
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, salty, but 'appear as having stared' is clunky and appears not quite grammatical to me...

    here's one way you can avoid that dilemma, prickly-one... and deal with that over-crammed, run-on sentence in the doing:

    is that really the whole opening paragraph?
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nice re-write, mammamaia
     
  7. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I personally like the original because it gives a sense of urgency but I'd have to agree with mammamaia about getting rid of the run-on sentence (despite liking it!). Mostly because it's your opening paragraph and might set a bad example for any publisher you sent it to.

    ~Lynn
     
  8. That Silly Welsh Guy
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    That Silly Welsh Guy Senior Member

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    Personally, if I didn't like it, I'd attempt to overhaul the whole paragraph and start from scratch. So as a result: 'Brendan was 12 minutes late. Well, 12 minutes and 23 seconds late, to be exact, but no one wanted to appear as if they been staring at the clock the whole time, even though it was no secret that they had.' would be come something like ...

    'Brendan was twelve minutes late. Well, he was actually a whole twelve minutes and twenty-three seconds late, but who was counting? His friends, that's who. Brendan knew that for certain, despite the fact that they had often tried to cover up the fact they watched the clock with hawk-like eyes'

    I realise that I have completely torn your paragraph apart, and for that I apologise but I wanted to show you how, if you're not overly happy with a certain paragraph, then you're better placed to scrape it and start over. Oh, and I personally like to see numericals written down in word format rather than as numbers - but that's just a personal preference.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Great rewrite there.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Brendan was twelve minutes late. Well, twelve minutes and twenty-three seconds late, to be exact, but his co-workers didn't want to appear as if they'd been staring at the clock the whole time. Although, it was no secret that they had.

    How about naming who they are? If they are his friends, coworkers, etc.
     
  11. ManicHedgehog
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    ManicHedgehog Member

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    Exactly what I'm going for. Can't believe I didn't think of it. Actually, it is his co-workers, and that fits perfectly.

    EDIT: Also, what is the policy on writing numbers in fiction? I go by Associated Press style because I'm in journalism, and that means only writing out numbers less than 10.
     
  12. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I'm pretty sure it's the same rule in fiction--writing numbers out that are less than ten.

    I don't like the last line in that re-write with the "although." I think it's clear enough when it says they didn't want to appear that way...obviously if they're *not* wanting to appear that way, then they're going to end up appearing that way.. I just think it's redundant, honestly.

    ~Lynn
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think in novels you only use numerals when you have to type more than three words for the numbers.

    Fifty-nine thousand, would be written. 59,524, wouldn't be written. At least that's what I recall. I am pretty sure I have never seen 12 or 100 in a novel.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not that simple, actually... the type of number matters, too... consult your strunk & white for the various permutations of that journalism rule... and a lot depends on just the writer's 'style' as well as the publisher's 'house style' rules...
     

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