1. AuthoressM
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    AuthoressM Member

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    Unconsciously vs. Subconsciously

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AuthoressM, Jul 18, 2008.

    I'm having a little tiff over the use of the word 'unconsciously' with someone. I think it would fit in a sentence, like:

    Unconsciously, she played with the bottom of her shirt while trying to say something to the boy she liked.

    Silly sentence, but it gets my point across. To my knowledge, 'unconsciously' could mean "Without conscious control; involuntary or unintended" or basically when you do something without thinking about it, you know?

    However, the person who disagrees with me insists that this is the improper use of 'unconsciously' and that 'subconsciously' is correct instead. To her, 'unconsciously' doing something is when you've lost consciousness/knocked out/sleeping. I think that's incorrect. Well, partially.

    So which one is correct? Unconsciously or subconsciously? (if I want to use it in my example sentence, or just to mean 'without thinking about it, involuntary, etc.)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As you can see, the definition of unconscious, and therefore unconsciously as well, is broad enough to cover your usage.

    So the person who was advising you was being overly pedantic.
     
  3. DrJoe
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    DrJoe Member

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    someplace that isn't actually a place but actually
    Unconsciously seems to be quite fitting there.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what you used is the only correct choice in that instance... 'subconsciously' can't be used with a physical action, as you've written that excerpt... so, your friend is wrong, happy/sorry to say...

    to use 'subconsciously' properly, the sentence would have to be something like this:

    can you see the difference?... here, while she may be 'unconsciously' [without thinking] playing with her shirt, her reason for doing so is generated by her 'subconscious' mind... thus, the unconscious act is driven by the subconcious emotion...
     
  5. draupnir
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    draupnir Member

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    I appreciate that you posted here to see if you were technically right or not rather then to get syle tips.

    But I feel compelled to mention, whilst it's technically fine, it does have some connotations with the state of being knocked out which make it sound sloppy to me. If you were going to rewrite the passage i'd go for 'distractedly' or 'unmindfully' instead.
     
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  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I must agree with draupnir on this point. If you have to argue the meaning of the word in the context you have chosen, then you risk a lack of clarity.
     
  7. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree with both of you. When I read it, it doesn't imply the person being "knocked out" at all. Also, the context would help to avoid that issue.
     
  8. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Singe Cogito gave the definition of Unconsciously, so I shall provide the definition of subconsciously - so you can compare and see for yourself what is being addressed.

    Subconscious is completly incorrect, ergo your friend is incorrect.

    As far as anything beyond that, it is a matter of style and pose that direct your writing.

    Unconsciously is clear enough in this avenue to be used effectively without any confusion as to what is being put forth.
     
  9. yaar
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    yaar New Member

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    I think that both words would work, but that unconscious sounds better in the sentence.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but both won't be correct in that sentence... for the reasons i gave above...
     
  11. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    In it least three of these examples, unconscious is the correct word to use. But I'm wondering, would the average reader understand this? Or would the average reader think "Subconscious means below conscious level", "Unconscious means not awake"?
     
  12. dreamca7cher
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    dreamca7cher New Member

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    Thanks for that insight. I would of never thought to stack subconsciously that way in a sentence. It conveys an underlying intent.
     
  13. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I agree with the use, but I think it is better to describe the unconscious action; it's less dry.

    She fumbled with the rim of her shirt, trying to utter a single word to the boy that unwittingly captured her affection, and then, from the depths of her heart, she mustered a coherent sentence that tapped into the very foundation of the boys hopes and dreams ...



    :supercheeky:
     
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  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that "unconsciously" is the right choice here--though I'm not sure that you actually need either one.
     
  15. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    the word you are looking for here is "absently"...she absently played with her shirt.
     
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  16. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    You mean absent-mindedly?

    ETA: Never mind, just looked it up! New one on me :)
     
  17. kenver
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    kenver Member

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    "Subconscious" feels pseudoscience-y. "Unconscious" wins. As for the actual sentence, I would leave the adverb out altogether.
     
  18. Masterspeler
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    Masterspeler Active Member

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    This is one of those words that has lost its meaning in daily usage.
    --Subconscious is something a person is not aware of but will notice it when pointed out. (ex: chewing a pen)
    --Unconscious is something that when pointed out the person will deny it or feel as if they are being lied to. (ex: blushing, sleep walking, stabbing the wife, that last one's a joke. Murder is not funny!) Also the unconscious pertains to breathing, blinking, heart beats etc.

    (As a side note, I was googling for the term, because I have one hell of a lapsus. It's on the tip of my tongue, but all google reveals are anxiety disorders, studies for medication etc. That is really, truly, mind numbingly sad)

    Its like Id and Ego that get confused all the time. Yes, most people will not know basic psychology so I agree with changing it to something like "unaware that she was playing with her shirt"

    There are articles that delve deeper into it, and sometimes that's required. I've written one sentence in a day because I was adjusting my plot to make sense in a geological sense. It had to do with the formation of the earth in the Hadean era, as well as the Archean Era, and a few other sub eons.

    AB
     

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