1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    That tricky word - only

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Jul 4, 2012.

    I'm polishing up my short story - and this one dang sentence is really giving me issues! I must have worked on it for an hour, writing and rewriting it -

    For two weeks , since they erected the booth blockade, on the northeast bank of the flooded town , Sunny Beach , the guard had only left the booth for an occasional smoke.

    it's that word only that's making me hesitate , not sure if it sounds right. But it sort of needs to be there to reinforce the previous sentense.
     
  2. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd delete the 'had' before 'only'
     
  3. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    That and you could also use the word 'solely' instead of 'only'.

    "For two weeks , since they erected the booth blockade, on the northeast bank of the flooded town , Sunny Beach , the guard solely left the booth for an occasional smoke."
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The wording is fine, although the excessive qualifying phrases make it a bit clunky. Your commas should not be preceded by spaces, and at least one of the commas does not belong:
    or perhaps:
     
  5. noodlepower
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    noodlepower Member

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    I really like Cognito's suggestion! Adding 'of' makes the whole sentence read so much better in my opinion.
     
  6. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Is the "northeast bank" vital at this point in your story? If not:

    "In the two weeks since Sunny Beach had flooded, the guard only left the booth for the odd cigarette."

    eta: "An occasional smoke" is an elegant package for it.
     
  7. rick_danger
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    rick_danger Member

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    I would too!
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  9. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    Everyone's been giving great advice. Oh, is it okay to delete "had" here? The guard performed that action in the past, so I thought including "had" would make things clear.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It changes the verb tense if you remove it.

    Left is simple past tense.
    Had left is past perfect.

    There are subtle differences between the two tenses. I recommend googling past perfect tense for several excellent explanations of the uses and meanings of past perfect. Either will work in this sentence.
     
  11. Aaron King
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    Aaron King New Member

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    Neat!

    My first reading since joining and I am already learning something. I think I am going to like it here. :)
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    or how about "the guard occasionally went out for a smoke" :)
     
  13. epicfailpig
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    epicfailpig Member

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    The word 'only' is generally used for emphasis. That said, it should only be in the sentence if it is important that the guard did nothing else but occasionally go out for a smoke. If it isn't important that the guard went out for an occasional smoke, then it doesn't need to be in the sentence.

    If you wanted to keep the word only, you could try moving it further back in the sentence. Adding on to Cognito's revision...

     
  14. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    What's wrong is that the sentence is backwards and is not intuitive. You need to rewrite it.

    ie: The guard had only left the booth for an occasional smoke during the two weeks since they had erected the booth blockade on the northeast bank of the flooded town, Sunny Beach.

    Though, that much information and connected ideas in one sentence is still cumbersome, but I've written it how it should be written, if it must stand as it is.
     
  15. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Hmm, I would read the original as that Sunny Beach is the name of the northeast bank, not the name of the town. Cog's rephrasing alters the original meaning then....

    Agreed! "only" in the original sentence tells the reader that the guard was stuck in the booth. It may explain later behavior or that he smelled like a tramp.
     

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