1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Using a noun instead of adverb?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Mckk, Aug 7, 2014.

    I'm collaborating with a friend right now. Anyway, the sentence in question is this:

    Children, as usual, race down the streets, oblivious laughter echoing hollow in the steel.

    My friend thinks it should be like this:

    Children, as usual, race down the streets, oblivious laughter echoing hollowly in the steel.

    Now, I know that correct grammar would mean I should use "hollowly", the adverb. But sometimes I like to switch what should be adverbs to nouns - as I've done by writing "echoing hollow" as opposed to "hollowly".

    I see it as poetic license. It's not that I don't know the correct grammatical conventions. I simply prefer the rhythm of using "hollow" in the sentence. It's stark, it jumps out at you. It's not smooth but that's how I want it.

    My friend, however, sees it as a "glaring mistake."

    So... thoughts? Is it okay to use poetic license in this and keep "hollow"? (and if yes, does it work for you?) Or is my friend right and it's just weird and I should just change it back to an adverb?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to nitpick, it's an adjective rather than a noun.

    I like it better too. Therefore I want it to be allowable.

    It wouldn't be incorrect if it were something like:

    ...the hollow echo of their laughter...

    I can't decide if it's incorrect here. What if I put in other adjectives?

    ...oblivious laughter echoing shrill in the steel.
    ...oblivious laughter echoing loud in the steel.

    Hmm. Those aren't adjectives, are they? They're modifying echoing? They're adverbs again?

    My entire logic for thinking it's fine is:

    - Grammar errors usually "smell" wrong to me.
    - This doesn't smell.

    But my feel for grammar is all about having read a bazillion books, rather than rules, logically applied. Apparently we need an opinion from someone who paid more attention in English class than I did and has the rules.

    Edited to add: Online, Merriam-Webster accepts "hollow" as an adverb. Oxford doesn't.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I have a couple issues, maybe it needs a bit more fixing than just the adverb:

    "oblivious laughter echoing hollow in the steel."
    Why 'oblivious' and what do you mean 'in the steel'?

    How about something like this:

    "Children, as usual, race down the streets, their laughter like echoes in hollow steel.
    Or something, because I don't get the imagery you are going for.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak - I suppose then you'd need to write "shrilly" and "loudly". Yeah it doesn't seem wrong to me either to use only "hollow".

    @GingerCoffee - sorry I didn't include the context. They're in a walled city where there're streets built above them, blocking out all sunlight. Think like they're underground, only they're not. They're in the bottom level of the city. And the walls etc are made of steel. Again, the steel reference is a little bit of poetic license. I quite like your suggestion too actually! And as for "oblivious" - it's because there's been a mass execution attempt in the form of doughnuts (yes, doughnuts - and this is dystopian actually lol) and now there's a fugitive Level 7 girl (people live in Levels and they don't mix. We're currently in Level 1 - so someone from level 7 is like WHOA what're you doing here?) that the guards are trying to kill. And the kids are basically not aware something massive has just happened.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interestingly, everyone seems to accept "loud" as an adverb, without requiring that you convert it to "loudly". So it seems to me that you're not twisting language inside out, you're instead choosing to treat "hollow" like "loud".

    And I think that Merriam-Webster flat-out accepts it as an adverb. I'm not quite positive. (They discuss its use in the idiom "beat all hollow" in the same section, but I think those are being treated as two different meanings.)

    So I probably wouldn't put this usage on the first page of a submission, but I think that you're using a word as an adverb, that one could reasonably argue is an adverb.

    Edited to add: If this were a poem or dialogue, I'd say use it, without a doubt. It's because it's straight narrative that I have any doubt.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it's straight narrative, but written in the first person. This is about 20k words into the book.

    I never knew "loud" was accepted as an adverb actually!!
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like "echoing hollow in the steel." It has a better rhythm and a better sound, and jumps out a bit more, making the reader pay more attention. Insisting on "hollowly" is simply being needlessly pedantic. There are no grammar police and grammar courts of law; you will not serve jail time if you don't use "hollowly." Any decent agent or editor must have seen this kind of thing many times in well-written works.
     
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  8. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everyone who reads this will know what it means.

    Technically, grammatically, it is valid, but not in the way that you might think. "hollow" modifies "laughter", not "echoing". The following has exactly the same meaning:

    Children, as usual, race down the streets. Laughter echoes in the steel. The laughter is oblivious and hollow.

    However, using the word "hollowly" would give it this meaning:

    Children, as usual, race down the streets. Laughter echoes in the steel. The laughter is oblivious and the echoing is hollow.

    In this case, they really mean the same thing -- not because they are semantically equivalent, but because humans are not inclined to think so hard about this kind of mental image that they would actually care about the technical difference between hollow echoes and hollow laughter.
     
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  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I also prefer the first sentence, though I understand why your friend thinks it should be changed. The way you have it, "hollow in the steel" is the thing being echoed. I know that doesn't make sense, but you can imagine other cases where such a thing would make sense, thus causing confusion. Technically, your friend is correct about this, but I think your way is clear enough that it shouldn't matter. Of course, there's always a third option: rephrase it.
     
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  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not exactly. Word order does not completely determine the meaning of an English sentence. There is some flexibility. This sentence:

    Children, as usual, race down the streets, oblivious laughter echoing hollow in the steel.

    takes advantage of that flexibility by moving "hollow" from {between "oblivious" and "laughter"} to {between "echoing" and "in"}.
     
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  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    "hollow" is modifying "echoing" here. That's why using the adverb is technically correct. When you move "hollow" around, it modifies different words, and the different sentences no longer mean the same thing.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm actually wondering right now whether to steal @GingerCoffee 's rewrite of: "Children, as usual, race down the streets, their laughter like echoes in hollow steel."

    The meaning she got is slightly different from what I wanted, but the difference is not great and not important, and it still has the same "ring" I want.

    Should I dig my heels in and stick with "hollow" or use the rephrase you think?
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I like the way Ginger has it, so I vote you go with that. Of course, it's ultimately your decision.
     
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  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah I like it too, and seeing as there're a perfectly beautiful alternative, there's no reason to fight my friend. I just showed her Ginger's rewrite and she liked it, so we'll be using that!

    @GingerCoffee - thanks! :D

    And thank you everyone else!
     
  15. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    I have a problem with the very first word. Children, in that context, seems to me to mean all children. It is like saying "People, as usual, run down the streets."

    I would prefer something that identifies which children. Is is referenced earlier? Could it not be The children, as usual, race down the street,
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it matters - again, this would be a matter of style and poetic license. "The" children would imply to me specific children, which isn't the case in the passage. The sentence appears in a paragraph of general description and atmosphere of the streets, and "children" is meant generally. Considering that, if you take it to mean "all children", that's not actually untrue.
     

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