1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Why is this paragraph unclear?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Jan 8, 2015.

    I already know that this paragraph is unclear, but I want to know why others find it unclear. There are basically no passive constructions or anything of that nature. As far as I can tell, the phrasing is not awkward except for the last sentence possibly. What exactly am I doing in this paragraph that is obscuring the message? I don't think it is because the sentences are too complex either. I did not even try that much to achieve rhythm. Maybe the context is not clear?

    But you did not interpret my words correctly, if you believe I wanted to be more than friends with her. For when I wrote about her personal and physical beauty, I wrote about my feelings for her in the past, in the days before I knew she had a boyfriend, in order to demonstrate that my pursuit of her was pure from its beginning, because through that pursuit came my desire to be her friend. For Marie doubted that my intentions were pure, not only those from the present, but those from the very beginning, and I discerned this. Therefore it behooved me to establish my true intentions, to show my present integrity through my purity in the past.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    One thing: stop using superfluous intro words in your sentences. Unless this is a period piece - and even if it is a period piece - these words make for disconnection and an overemphasis in quaint Victorian verbal props rather than in the meaning and flow of the sentences. You mention the last sentence is possibly the most awkwardly worded, but that's not the case. It is the most clear sentence in the paragraph, in fact.

     
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  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    It was clear to me, long-winded and some odd fancy words mixed it, but besides that clear.
    Oddly phrased though, if this is dialogue, the sentences don't match each other at all. Might as well be two different speakers.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    > But you did not interpret my words correctly, if you believe I wanted
    > to be more than friends with her.

    The second clause here contains information essential for the first. So you read the first, the second, then you go back to the first to figure out what's being said. That's confusing.

    Examples of sentences with similar problems:

    The color was blue, with which I painted my wall.
    is less clear than
    I painted my wall blue.

    The texture was crisp, to which I cooked the potatoes.
    is less clear than
    I cooked the potatoes to a crisp texture.

    Blue, and silk, and a dress, was the garment worn by my sister.
    is less clear than
    My sister wore a blue silk dress.

    Peas, and carrots, and chicken, were the foods that I ate at dinner
    is less clear than
    I had peas, carrots, and chicken for dinner.

    Also, "did not interpret my words correctly" is more complicated than "interpreted my words incorrectly". To get the meaning of the first, you have to tie together "did not" and "correctly" and they're some distance apart.

    Also, your writing is very formal, even archaic. With that style, the lack of a "that" rings wrong for me. I would expect it to be "if you believe that I wanted..."

    > For

    I agree with Wreybies; "For" is archaic and offers no information.

    > when I wrote about her personal
    > and physical beauty, I wrote about my feelings for her in the past, in
    > the days before I knew she had a boyfriend, in order to demonstrate
    > that my pursuit of her was pure from its beginning, because through
    > that pursuit came my desire to be her friend.

    This jumps from idea to idea to idea to idea. And it jumps in time, too. And it's just too many clauses. If a sentence has five clauses, it can't ALSO hopscotch back and forth with ideas and times.

    > For

    Another "for" needs to go.

    > Marie doubted that
    > my intentions were pure, not only those from the present, but those
    > from the very beginning,

    Time jumping again. And what's "the present" here? Marie "doubted" your intentions from that present, so it's not the present at the time of writing. When is it?

    > and I discerned this.

    Why "discerned"? Why not a clearer, more common word? What added meaning (not rhythm, not "hey, he owns a thesauraus", but meaning) does "discern" give you?

    > Therefore it behooved

    "behooved" is another rarely-used, archaic word. It does, I will grant you, have a specific meaning that is appropriate here. If all of the other archaic words were gone, it might be OK--except that it would probably read as joking, rather than serious.

    > me to establish my true intentions, to show my present

    Again, what is the present? It's at the same time as "behooved", so it's not the present at the time of writing.

    > integrity through my purity in the past.

    "establish my true intentions" and "show my present integrity..." seem to say the same thing; they're two clauses saying the same thing.
     
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  5. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    The phrasing is awkward, and word choice could also be better. I'll take this sentence:

    For when I wrote about her personal and physical beauty, I wrote about my feelings for her in the past, in the days before I knew she had a boyfriend, in order to demonstrate that my pursuit of her was pure from its beginning, because through that pursuit came my desire to be her friend.

    "I wrote about my feelings for her in the past" could mean you wrote it last week or that you wrote about your former feelings.
    "personal beauty" means nothing to me. Beauty is physical. So you mean her beauty and winning personality.
    "demonstrate" usually means to explain by showing. No, not always, but most readers will think of this. You might mean "explain." You wrote in order to explain something.
    "When I wrote...., I wrote...." There has to be a way to eliminate one of those. "I wrote about feelings, which I had long before I knew she had a boyfriend."

    Aside from this, there are still problems with logic. For example, you imply that knowing someone has a boyfriend stops you from feeling attraction to them. The whole of human history proves the opposite.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My rewrites are indented.

    If you believe I wanted to be more than friends with her, you did not interpret my words correctly.​

    Why be indirect when direct is better? Not sure what voice you are going for. If it's archaic-medieval or century-old-stuffy, then put some of the words back I took out. I'm not knowledgeable enough about period language to properly critique it.

    When I wrote about her personal and physical beauty, I wrote about my past feelings for her, in the days before I knew she had a boyfriend.​

    Sentence was too long, it needed a break.

    My pursuit of her was pure from its beginning. Through that pursuit came my desire to be her friend. Marie doubted my intentions were pure,​

    Uses pure one too many times, maybe find a synonym.

    not only those from the present, but those from the past as well.​

    We know he discerned it, you don't need to tell us.

    Therefore it behooved me to establish my true intentions, to show my present integrity through my purity in the past.​

    This wasn't a clear declaration. What does "through my purity in the past" mean? It might be the goal, but what you need here is the action to arrive at the goal.

    And you changed tense here which while I get it, maybe you could put the earlier verbs in past tense for consistency.
     
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  7. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the mentions of "pure intentions" are somewhat meaningless.
    It's a quality of the intentions, but it's not the specifics.
    Different people will have different standards as to what constitutes purity of intention.
    As a result I don't really understand what you're talking about.

    As an argument the piece isn't very convincing.
    You talked about how beautiful you found her to convince her your intentions were pure? Really? That'd prove nothing of the sort. Some men can find a girl beautiful and it can lead to the impurist of intentions.
     
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  8. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    The argument is not that her beauty is proof of pure intentions, but that my past feelings were pure, and that gives integrity to my present feelings. My past feelings were based on attraction on a physical and personal level, but my present feelings, though still acknowledging her beauty, are more inclined toward friendship. The argument is that my desire to be her friend can be trusted because even before my attraction could be trusted, and it was through the pursuit of her during attraction that I settled for friendship. The argument is that my intentions were pure from the beginning to the present, though my intentions changed to a less romantic one.

    It is not very easy for me to explain this concept, but I believe it is a valid one.

    Also, I do not agree that beauty speaks only of the physical. Beauty can indeed be personal or spiritual.
     
  9. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    @waitingforzion, of course beauty can be those things. Language is a code, and words are tools for communication. When you say, "She is beautiful," most people's brains process that as meaning physical. If you're writing for an audience, you have to think about how words are usually interpreted by that audience. Is this word or that word the best tool? If you're writing for yourself only, you can do whatever you want.

    Put up a whole piece for critique. I don't think there's much more you can get out of this one paragraph.
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lustrousonion has suggested that you put up a whole piece for critique. I'm doubtful that this is a good idea. My reasons are that you still don't seem to have grasped what we've offered by way of help. Instead, you've now entered into a debate about what you actually meant by the paragraph you posted, whereas we were simply trying to suggest how to simplify it to make it clearer.

    I don't think that anybody here actually cares about how you feel about this girl (well, we probably want you to be a decent guy, etc.) but what we do care about is that, when you talk about it, we can understand how you feel.
     
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  11. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I am going to try to write this paragraph clearly.

    My original intentions were to be more than friends with Marie after getting to know her. This was before I knew she had a boyfriend. After I knew she had a boyfriend, my intentions changed so that I only wanted to be her friend. Since my former intentions were noble and my present intentions came out of them, they are also noble. I wrote about my former intentions to show this.

    I hope that is clear because it is plain as dirt.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    You're right it's plain but to be honest I found the other paragraph to be almost as plain thought worded differently. In both instances you talk of emotions without really conveying them. The paragraph seems as though is supposed to be some kind of revelation, not just information given - so what is the character feeling? Stick with the character. Is he feeling nostalgic, bittersweet, wistful, what? I can't tell in either paragraph why he's bringing this up except to deliver information to the reader.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dude, you need to move beyond this damn paragraph!

    But, as you're still picking at it... your language is getting more clear, but your thinking isn't! What is all this "noble" and "pure" stuff you keep talking about? There's nothing ignoble about physical desire, is there?

    Your train of thought still doesn't make sense - you wanted to be "more than friends" which suggests you felt one way, but your intentions have been "noble" from the start, so clearly there's nothing ignoble about wanting to be more than friends, but then why are you even bringing it up?

    Possibly the problem is that this seems to be one part of an argument or discussion and we don't have all of the other parts.

    Seriously, though, let it go. Between this thread and the other one, how many hours of your life have you spent on this one paragraph?!?
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's much clearer in the sense that I'm not getting lost in the clauses and having to start over, repeatedly--I don't have that feeling that I'm trapped in a maze. I'm still not altogether clear on which intentions were the noble ones--the "more than friends" or the "friends?--and which intentions are "former" and which are "present".

    It appears that you're talking about three periods:

    Earliest: Wanted to be more than friends.
    Middle: Wanted to just be friends, and therefore noble.
    Latest: Still want to just be friends, and therefore noble. Wrote things about the middle period.

    But I'm not sure.

    Edited to add: And I would agree that you need a new paragraph. I fear that the problem with this one may be that your thinking is not all that clear. It's an emotional subject, so you may be blocked not only about the writing of it, but by the reality of it.

    I would strongly urge you to move on to another paragraph, or even several. :)
     
  15. A.M.P.
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    This sounds like he's trying to convince himself by doing loop logic >.>
    So, he liked her but then found she was with someone so decided to remain simply friends.
    And the use of the word noble just sounds phony in that paragraph, like it's forced.

    "I wanted to be more than friends with Marie but after I found out she already had someone in her life, I decided to remain her friend instead."

    Even shorter and sweeter.
     
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  16. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    So it isn't just me. The use of the term 'noble' actually makes me think the contrary. It's a tad too self-ingratiating for my taste.
     
  17. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Okay, so maybe I cannot write this paragraph correctly because my thoughts are unclear.

    Also, regarding the comments about words sounding phony, how else do I get the idea across?
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    When I find this happening it usually means I need to rethink and refine the argument. It's one reason (of many) I spend time debating strangers on a forum. It helps one refine one's argument when it is challenged or not understood.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That all depends on context. Who is speaking to whom here? Are these two buddies? A guy and a gal? A son and his mother? Right now we have no idea what this goes to. We have no idea what kind of story is being told.

    Let's look at something else. I have no idea what kind of stash of writing you have sitting in your hard-drive and the truth it's not any of my business. But... You've been a member of our forum for some considerable time. You have never once posted in the Writing Workshop nor participated in any of the writing contests. You only ever post the odd sentence or small paragraph in the upper quarter of the forum, conveniently bypassing the forum rules/requirements for critique. I'm not castigating you, but I am letting you know that you're not really making the most of this venue we call The Forum. Participate in the Workshop. Do a couple of critiques and post something a little more substantial. Right now all that's happening, and all that's ever going to happen, is this:

    You ~ "What do think of this?"

    Me ~ "It's a bolt."

    You ~ "Yes, it's a bolt, but does it give you a feeling of speed and power?"

    Me ~ "What?"

    You ~ "Speed and power. Does this bolt convey that?"

    Me ~ "Dude, it's a bolt."

    You ~ "Yes, but it's from a car."

    Me ~ "Ok. It's still just a bolt. Is it from a VW Bug or a Bugatti Veyron?"

    You ~ "You can't tell?"

    Me ~ "No one can tell. It's just a bolt."

    You ~ "Well, here's the nut that tightens that bolt down. Now can you tell?"

    Me ~ "No. Why don't you show me the car?"

    You ~ *silence*

    Me ~ "Hey. Where did you go?"

    You ~ "I'm still here."

    Me ~ "Dude, just show me the car. I know a thing or two about cars. I can totally help, if I can see the actual thing we're talking about."

    You ~ *silence*

    Me ~ "Why do you keep doing that? I ask you a question and you act like words did not just come out of my mouth."

    You ~ "Here's another bolt. Does this convey speed and power?"

    Me ~ "Bye."
     
  20. Fan_Farming_Tastic
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    It's too much and not enough at the same time. You use enough words to tell what was going on, but there's quite a bit of hammering repetition (too much). At the same time, it feels so mechanical that it doesn't really convey the emotion that I imagine you must have been feeling (not enough). Maybe start at the beginning: "When I first met Marie..." and then tell about those feelings. Really TAKE me there. Tell me. Show me. Let me get in your head a bit. Then explain that you realized that she wasn't available and you knew the right thing was to keep your distance, or whatever, and then you became her friend. To me, the best writing is always writing that allows me to exist, for a time, outside myself; able to experience another reality for as long as the words let me. It sounds like you know what you want to say, but the struggle is more with making it real for someone else without all the insider-information. Does that make sense?
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Two things here. @Shadofax is right. When you argue with a critique it usually means you aren't listening to the advice.

    And two, part of the problem is you are using a version of the logical fallacy of Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
    This does not follow:
    Since my former intentions were noble and my present intentions came out of them, they are also noble.
    In your case you are saying noble intentions in the past cause noble intentions in the future. But that is a logical fallacy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2015
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  22. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Okay, but here is one more attempt, and then after that I will try to critique something and post for critique.

    If you believe that I wanted to be more than friends with her, you did not interpret my words correctly. In the past, when I was attracted to her personality and appearance, I wanted to be more than her friend, but afterword, when I learned that she had a boyfriend, I put aside my desires and settled for friendship. But I mentioned her beauty in order to show that my former desires were limited, that is to say, not approaching any lustful intention, and that today, the time when those desires are not acceptable, my integrity is the same.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    But is it about how the words were interpreted, or is it about the problem that the words did not actually say what they were intended to say.

    (my corrections in red)

    Why not just state this as a fact? You are using it as an argument when it is backstory but not part of the argument.

    Here is a key part of the logical fallacy: mentioning her beauty does not show that the former desires were limited.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Still not clear.

    I could explain why, but I feel that you're not hearing anything at all that I'm saying.
     
  25. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Unless you word it differently - Just cause she was beautiful, doesn't mean that I was horny for her. Well, maybe just a little, but I want to make it absolutely clear it was a respectful horniness.
    Sorry couldn't resist.
     

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