1. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    The use of "as"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Artist369, Dec 28, 2014.

    I found this article curious: As If! - Overuse and Misuse of the Word 'as'
    The author states that "as" is more of a comparison word and not to be used instead of "while". In other words instead of:

    You would use:

    Now the author does state that it's the overuse of "as" that becomes a problem, that it's fine to use it now and then, but I recently saw another article that gave me pause. I happened to see the following phrasing repeated with no "as" in dialogue tags (these are similar examples-- I forgot where I saw them):

    That sounds strange to me, but is that more typical? Or would you more likely see the following?

    Is one preferable, or are both phrasings interchangeable (with the caveat that "and" will make the actions occur one after another and might not work in all cases)? I know it CAN depend on what you want to say-- that's not my question. My question is, do editors mind seeing "as" in dialogue tags on a frequent basis?

    EDIT: And let me clarify, I ignored the above link because I hadn't read it anywhere else before. It wasn't until I saw another site avoid "as" (without saying why), that I thought of it again. My personal inclination is to use "as" because it sounds more natural than "while" or "and".
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2014
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    And we should believe this blogger is correct, why?

    And so on and so on per multiple dictionary entries.
     
  3. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    That's why I am asking around. I want to know what editors in the industry accept-- which is not always what you learn about in grammar class. They seem to have their own consensus of standards.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2014
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Do you think said editors would ignore the dictionary for their own definitions? Or is it more likely this one website is wrong?

    I'm not complaining you are asking, or that you posted the link mind you. I'm just saying I wouldn't give this web site credence without a good reason. Do you know who the site sponsor is? Looking around I see a lot of claims and no names. They seem to have their own short story contest. Is it well known?

    They claim to have a large membership of recognized authors. So why no names?

    Sorry, I am the suspicious type.
     
  5. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    No, I am saying there are different editing choices based on modern trends in the writing industry that have nothing to do with established grammar or dictionary definitions. For example the adage "showing versus telling". The old masters of the 19th century often "told" with introductions and long narrative prose. They often used adverbs in dialogue tags and generally employed other techniques that are not used by today's editors as a whole. These new "rules" have nothing to do with what we are taught about grammar in high school, and yet there is a general consensus among editors that showing instead of telling is what readers want in the industry today. I am asking if the above advice is part of that general consensus among editors for industry standards or not because I genuinely do not know.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    But I'm only asking if you know if this particular web site is reputable. What do you know about "Accentuate Authors Services"? Who are they?
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm feeling dubious about the article. For example, it says that "‘As’ shouldn’t be used to mean ‘while’" but when I check dictionary definitions, I find samples that do just that.

    I agree that this sample sentence from the article is horribly awkward:

    “As he was talking to her on the phone, he wrote on the sketch pad as she talked.”
    But it's not because of the "as", it's because...well, because it's horribly awkward. :) (Xander: "What gave it away?" Willow: "Lookin' at it.")

    I also agree that it can be easy to fall into the habit of overusing, "As blah, blah." But that's just one of a bazillion things that you can habitually overuse.
     
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  8. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    I know nothing about the source, GingerCoffe. Thus I defer to the writers on this forum to ask about editor standards on the matter. If they do not match, I will consider the source wrong. Is anyone here an editor or perhaps been published using such phrases that can offer guidance on the issue?

    Edit: Just to reiterate my question, because you haven't answered it (and my question can be taken as a stand alone with no source brought into the equation): Do editors mind seeing "as" in dialogue tags on a frequent basis?
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Since this is the first that any of us have been made aware that this is a problem, I'm going to say: no.

    I have never heard of a piece being thrown into the trash can for gratuitous use of "as", and I'm not interested in drastically editing a work to appease the tastes of a single blogger. Nor should you be.
     
  10. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Clearly I am not as well, as evident by my post in asking. I wouldn't have questioned you all if I was prepared to chuck what sounded natural to my ear for such a unique critique. Unless I hear otherwise, I intend to keep using the word "as" in my dialogue tags. To me, it sounds infinitely better than "and", and more often than not, better than "while". I do hope you and others did not misconstrue my post to think that I agreed with this guy? It might not have been clear, I think avoiding "as" sounds strange.
     
  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wonder if this is one of those pieces of advice that started in a good place and then went way too far.

    There's a fairly common mistake in which writers make it seem like events are happening synchronously when really they aren't, and I think this shows up a lot in dialogue tags.

    "I'm not going," Tim said, sipping his coffee.

    or, in the more relevant version,

    "I'm not going," Tim said as he sipped his coffee.

    Tim can't sip his coffee at the exact same time he speaks, so both of these are weird dialogue tags. And I think that feels more OBVIOUS if the sentence is written as

    "I'm not going," Tim said while he sipped his coffee.

    In that version, I think the weirdness is more apparent. The writer's brain may skitter over the "as" without really noticing that it's weird, but the "while" jumps out and hits you.

    I don't know - this is just speculation, in terms of where the "use 'while' instead of 'as'" idea came from. I just can't think of another reason for someone to suggest the change.
     
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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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    Just throwing in my vote with the majority of prior posters. Overuse can happen with any word. There is nothing special about "as" in that respect. The author of the article/blog clearly has a personal pet peeve about the use of that word that isn't really logical and when looked at from a slightly higher level isn't so much about overuse or misuse of that word in particular. Sometimes people mistake their personal idiolect for hard and fast rules, when in fact there are many ways to skin the syntactic cat and they all get you where you need to go.

    The only difference to me in these two sentences is the mildly implied difference in time sequence, but even that difference is so soft that I might, as a writer, interchange the two without caring about that minor nuance.

    @BayView 's example is more on target as to an error in the use of "as" but, as mentioned, even here there is no syntactic or grammatical error as such. The error is one of logic. There may be any number of things that one can do as one simultaneously says something, but sipping coffee is not one of them. The mouth is occupied with beverage. :)

    I cannot see why they would. It's a tiny, invisible, "mechanical word". Mechanical words (that's not a real term, just my own coinage) are all the little words that aren't nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs (in their many forms). They are the conjunctions, articles, prepositions, and other teensy words that serve as the nuts and bolts to the machinery. So long as they are used properly, they aren't even seen. As to mean while is perfectly valid. It's just not the personal choice of syntax for the writer of that article and the writer is now trying to evangelize his/her personal choice as a rule, or, given the examples the author cites from MS's they read, they came across someone who does egregiously overuse the word "as" and decided that this molehill is in fact a mountain that needs tackling.

    One example the author gives is the following:
    Yes, that's overuse and poor use, but the issue that gives rise to the broken clumsiness of this sentence is not the word "as", it's a poor understanding of clause structure and logic. Here "as" is just the patsy.

    I have lot's of personal pet peeves in grammar and syntax that have nothing to do with correct or incorrect use and everything to do with my personal choices. I deplore heading a subjunctive in narrative with the word "If" because it sounds common and pedestrian to me. When a story or novel's first line starts with the word "The", I won't read it. Neither of those peeves is in any way a rational rule that should be imposed on others. Those things are my problems, not the problems of anyone else. ;)

    ETA: The only misuse the author of the article mentions that I agree with, in part, is using as to replace and mean because. I can maybe see this in dialogue if a person's speaking region includes this mild aberration in meaning, but not in narrative. The two words just don't have any overlap at all to me, in my idiolect, so it's not something that would ever occur to me to use. Given that is the term I have to prune out instead of because in my own writing. That's just how I speak, but I know it's not the more common choice.
     
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  13. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I disagree with the blogger that "as" is being used incorrectly for "because" and "while." I do, however, agree that it might be an indicator of weak writing. Because "as" has so many possible uses, it could easy be overused. But that's true for lots of words. *shrug*

    When I first started writing long fiction, I would occasionally throw the whole text into a word cloud formulator and see which words I used most often. I saw that I was writing how I would speak and that I used some words way too much. Just being aware of it has helped.
     
  14. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Thanks for your input Bayview, Wreybies, and lustrousonion. I very much appreciate the clarification and insight. As far as the author, he/she does state:

    .

    So perhaps it isn't so much as a hard-fast rule for him as it is a pet peeve, like you said Wreybies. I've asked before about the "blahing, he blahed" sentence structure and a lot of people (and a few books too), have said there is nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence, but that it can make a sentence awkward and is best used once in a while versus every other sentence. Moderation in all things, I suppose. And this advice would fit right in with that.
     
  15. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I don't know if the word "as" should be considered a word in this case, but more a grammatical tool. What the author of the article (and I haven't read it yet, especially after the rave reviews you guys have given it :p) might be talking about is relying too much on "as" to join two actions or that readers might be able to focus more on sequential action rather than simultaneous action. I don't have any basis for either of those two arguments, though. Not sure what the problem is with using it instead of "while," though.

    My point is, the word itself is invisible, but the structure it gives a sentence isn't. The overuse of making two actions simultaneous over and over and over gets tiresome. So, in that case, using "as," "while," or a present participial one sentence after the other would be a problem. So judging by the article's title, the "overuse" part would be that problem: not the overuse of the word, but the structure. The "misuse" would be a problem in a case like what @Wreybies was talking about: you can't sip coffee and talk at the same time. Unless you're a two-headed alien. Then more power to you.

    Should I read the article before I talk? Maybe. But we don't care about a single article. We care about the problem it's trying to highlight. And I think I have enough of an idea of what it's talking about. I'm saying "as" isn't the problem. I used the word "the" in this post twenty-six times and you probably didn't even notice. The problem is simultaneous action over and over again. That's what editors don't want to see.
     
  16. lustrousonion
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    @lostinwebspace "Invisible" things become visible if you use them incorrectly.
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's why I rarely read this kinda writing advice. Everyone knows overuse of anything is bad. But as long as you're using something appropriately, what's the problem? Trust your natural ear and if in doubt, go read a really good book and see how the writers actually do it. I listen to critique on my writing - but I don't generally listen to this kinda general writing "advice". I have my style which might go against said advice - and as long as people enjoy reading it, what do I care whether it goes against someone's advice or not?
     
  18. Artist369
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    But see, I want to know what editors think. Because I am so new I'm practically green. I have no idea what I am doing. Hence why I ask questions on this site. I know what sounds good to me would be edited to shreds.
     
  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Editors think this: if the writing and story works, then it works.

    And that's why I said to go read good books - published authors got through agents as well as publishers and editors. Whatever their final product is what editors think is good.

    And if you're still unsure, what are you doing on a forum where about 90% of us aren't published, or are only self-published? :p We're not editors here, nor do we work for a publishing house. In short, none of what any of us say is definitive.

    But I think we worry too much. Writing is a form of art, and as with any type of art, there are only techniques and guidelines - there's no hard and fast rule. You need to use your own intuition and trust your instincts. Learn rather by reading, analysing, and writing - and not by adhering to rules, because there aren't any rules when it comes to writing, except for perhaps grammatical ones for comprehension's sake, and even then they are sometimes broken :p

    In any case, if you don't trust your instincts, you won't last long with writing. It's one of those fields where you must get critique and as with any critique, your work's gonna be ripped to shreds - only not every piece of advice/critique is good, and even if it is good, not every one of them would be appropriate for your style and/or story. You need to determine when to listen to and when to dismiss critique. Hence where trust your instincts come in.

    You'll learn much more just by writing alone - and the more you write, the more confidence you'll build, which sounds like the thing you need right now, rather than a set of rules ad advice restricting you from exploring and yes, even making mistakes. Go and make those mistakes, and then learn from them. You'll be fine. Believe it :) You've got to if you want to make it as a writer.
     
  20. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd be surprised what some ventriloquist can do :D

    I use this word too often in my writing and it's one of those words I have to watch out for, up there with 'just' and 'so'

    It's not detrimental writing, but of course there is always work to be done. A book is never finished only abandoned.
     
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  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    For me (and I have lots of trouble with the word 'as') the difference is timing.

    "No, thanks," he said and collapsed into the chair.
    This to me, tells me he said "no, thanks" and then silently dropped into the chair whereas the next sentence tells me he spoke WHILE he was dropping into the chair.

    "No, thanks," he said as he collapsed into the chair.


    As/while/then/ and probably a few more my mind won't divulge right now, are all to do with tense and movement. If I can drop the 'as' and re-word something, I endeavour to do so but sometimes, you just have to go with the 'as'.
     

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