1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    To hesitate

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Aug 14, 2015.

    Sometimes when I write I get stupid mental blocks, such as suddenly realising I don't know if that comma I just used should really be a full stop.

    The one I'm having now is just as bizarre.

    Can one hesitate 'for a moment'. Or do they simply hesitate?

    Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice is telling me the 'for a moment' is redundant, as momentarily is the only way a person can hesitate anyway.

    John hesitated. "I lost it all," he said.

    John hesitated for a moment. "I lost it all," he said.

    ?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer leaving out "for a moment," as that's essentially what a hesitation is. That said, I see this sort of thing in a lot of published writing, where an author may use a short redundancy after a word like that. If it just happens once or twice I don't think much of it and I doubt many readers would even notice it in the ordinary course of reading. But I think the first version is just tighter writing.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I would only use it if it's something that would create extra oomph to the scene.
    For instance -
    Elsie snatched up the gun. "Don't move." Her hand trembled.
    John smirked, not the least bit surprised. "You know you're not going to shoot me," he said before moving towards her.
    She hesitated a moment then pulled the trigger.

    In something like that I like the extra words extending the moment - even if it is redundant. Sometimes redundancy works. Just play with the scene and see what works best.
     
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  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see what both of you are saying, and I agree to a point. I think it is tighter without the redundancy, but something niggled me about the fact there's no real-time pause between the hesitation and him speaking.

    I know the reader should be able to 'hear' that pause, as I've told them it's there, but I thought maybe the 'for a moment' forced a real-time pause before he speaks.

    Anyway, thanks.
     
  5. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You don't have to use the word "hesitate," either if you're worried about encouraging a full stop, but don't want to sound redundant. In fact, if this is the actual text and you're trying to convey intense emotions, I think there are better options which don't employ either word/phrase, and might do a better job at "showing" while still implying a brief pause.

    John stumbled over his words, unable to string the right ones together. "I lost it all," he said.

    John lingered in the weight of the moment. "I lost it all," he said.
     
  6. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I might be taking you out of context, but this isn't strictly true (depending on how liberal your definition of 'moment' is ;) ).

    John hesitated to play the game of basketball with Jane - implies more of a procrastination-until-stated-otherwise, in light of some offer or pressure. Doesn't suggest whether John does or doesn't play in the end.

    John hesitated to eat meat - more of a figurative meaning, stating a general predisposition or attitude against something.

    So I don't think it's wrong to add 'for a moment' to clarify that you are using the briefly pause meaning, although I agree with @Steerpike that it's snappier to omit in your example. The context made the meaning clear. I also like @No-Name Slob 's ideas (thanks :D) and will make use of them myself, as I think I overuse 'hesitated', 'paused', etc in my own writing.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've been known to use something like:

    John hesitated. Then he said, "I lost it all."

    But just because I use it doesn't mean I've made up my mind whether I like it. :)
     
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