1. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    What is wrong with this sentence...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by stubeard, Jul 17, 2010.

    ...apart from generally not being any good :p ?

    "Not wanting to draw too much attention to themselves, the other drinkers in the tavern soon dipped their heads, fleeing to the safety of their own conversations, praying that the newest visitor would not stop to trouble them."

    Microsoft Word keeps telling me to change "themselves" to "them". Is that Word being a nuisance, or is it bad grammar?
     
  2. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I suspected that Word is confuse about the subject so I remove the comma after themselves and Word suggest no changes. Usually pronoun with 'self' comes after the subject and in your complex sentence Word could not find the subject before 'themselves' and the comma.... it treated the phrases before and after the comma as separate phrases. Well, another example that you can't solely rely on grammar software.

    Anyway, I'll remove 'to themselves' if I were you... it's redundant.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Apart from the correct observations above, the other problem is:

    "Not wanting to draw too much attention to themselves, the other drinkers in the tavern soon dipped their heads, fleeing to the safety of their own conversations, praying that the newest visitor would not stop to trouble them."

    ...this number of -ings. Far too much (non) information crammed into one sentence, I think.
     
  4. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The sentence is fine, IMO, if a little long.

    "Word" has given me that same instruction a few times. Sometimes it just needs to be ignored! ;)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Word, and any other grammar checking software, can understand syntax but not semantics. Unfortunately, human languages are what are known as context-sensitive grammars, so even the syntax can change with the underlying meaning.

    Therefore, Word can only point at what might be a problem. You, the writer, must understand grammar well enough to know whether the sentence is actually correct. The more complex the sentence, the more possible parses of the sentence must be considered. In this case, the greater the likelihood that the reflexive pronoun is incorrectly used, so it is flagged for the writer to verify for himself.

    If you have a large number of falsely flagged potential grammar errors, it probably means you are writing unnecessaruly complex sentences, like your example sentence.

    So my advice is not to ignore the grammar warnings. Look at each one and decide if the sentence is correct, or intentionally incorrect, or a real mistake.

    Grammar check. like spell check, is only an aid to proofreading. Getting it right is still the writer's task.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Amen, brother!

    Language is an amazingly complex phenomenon. The fact that I still have a job as an interpreter and have not yet been replaced by a machine or computer program is evidence to the fact.

    There is no substitute for a solid grasp of grammar and syntax.
     
  7. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Word aside, the syntax & structure is messy.

    The other drinkers soon fled to the safety of their own conversations, praying the newest visitor would not stop to trouble them.

    The beginning of your sentence tells the reader what you go on to show, so there's no need for it.

    Last week, I was amazed to see a translating device. You speak into it and it repeats you in the designated language!
     

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