1. fangorn
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    fangorn New Member

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    Trying to understand basic writing.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by fangorn, Jul 13, 2013.

    Just as an example, I came across the following quote on a website. (It's obviously from one of the A Song of Ice and Fire books.)

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however. She is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and a sacker of cities, Aegon the Conqueror with teats." (Original)

    At first reading it feels a little awkward to me and I might be inclined to modify it thus.

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however; she is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and sacker of cities—Aegon the Conqueror with teats." (Version A)

    There are others ways of writing it that don't seem incorrect to me—at least I can't explain how they are flawed.

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however; she is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons, and sacker of cities: Aegon the Conqueror with teats." (Version B)

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however—she is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and a sacker of cities; Aegon the Conqueror with teats." (Version C)

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however, she is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and a sacker of cities; Aegon the Conqueror with teats." (Version D)


    What would you do, and why? I'm a complete writing n00b and am just curious.

    Thanks!

    P.S. As an aside, 'Khal' is a title, should it be capitalized in this context? <-- Was this a comma splice?
     
  2. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    None of them exactly flow off the tongue when read aloud. It's hard to parse with so many clauses, and more so because of the tricky names.

    Versions A and B are improvements on the original. The last phrase needs strong separation. The semicolon points out that a strong relationship between what is before and after it and that is good, but I want more separation there, too.

    Version C seems to me to put the dash (stronger punctuation) and semicolon (medium strong) in the places opposite of where they are needed. I prefer a pair of dashes or a dash with the sentence ending after the second part.

    Version D is wrong with the comma after however because it is not a strong enough punctuation to join phrases that can be separated into two sentences. I like its semicolon after cities.

    My version would break it again for easier parsing. I can still get the relationship of the thoughts without them being joined. But I'm no expert on this stuff.

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, however. She is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and a sacker of cities. She is Aegon the Conqueror with teats." (Version E)
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd stick with the original. The second sentence is a list, so separation by commas is appropriate. It also accomplishes the purpose of the sentence with the most efficiency, without less common punctuation that might draw a reader's attention out of the story and to the punctuation.
     
  4. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Well, I'm not familiar with Aegon, but either all of the qualities listed are showing similarity to Aegon and the last phrase is not part of the list, OR if being like Aegon is part of the list then the "and" is in the wrong place.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I like the 'and' where it is in the original sentence. If people want to argue grammar, that's OK by me, but grammar can and does give way to style, and I like the way the original reads better than if you moved the 'and' around. In my view, versions A through D worsen it. I'd be happy enough with E if that's how it was presented, but I don't consider it better or worse than the original.
     
  6. fangorn
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    fangorn New Member

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    Aegon the Conqueror was not the widow of a Dothraki khal, but he did have dragons and was a sacker of cities.
     
  7. fangorn
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    fangorn New Member

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    That's interesting. Is it a common principle of style to avoid certain forms of punctuation? When I first read the original I found myself adding the punctuation of version A automatically. Is strong punctuation tacky? For whatever reason I like it. Perhaps because I am a programmer. haha.
     
  8. fangorn
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    fangorn New Member

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    Thank you for the reply. Version E reads well. I think it is mainly the last comma in the original that doesn't feel right to me. One could take out the list entirely.

    "Daenerys Targaryen is no maid, she is Aegon the Conqueror with teats."

    In my reading this is the important statement that is being made. The list of things in between is lead-in. I would expect stronger separation.

    All three of the qualities in the preceding list support the comparison with Aegon. The Dothraki are a warrior people; Aegon was a warrior. Daenerys possesses dragons; it was with dragons that Aegon conquered. By this point Daenerys has sacked a couple cities; Aegon sacked many cities.
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    What I would do is read the passage/paragraph this sentence is from and decide which revised version works the best in that context. I pay a lot of attention to style, so even though there are several possibilities, there's usually one that works best within a specific context.

    That being said, I wouldn't go with Versions C and D because of the semicolon before "Aegon the Conqueror..." It's used incorrectly, and that bothers me. Versions A and B are essentially the same, except that the dash in A signifies an aside, whereas the colon suggests a relationship between Aegon the Conqueror and the preceding phrase. Going on the sentence alone (no context), I actually prefer A or B over the original.
     

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