1. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

    Dec 13, 2009
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    Avoiding Gerunds

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Jul 29, 2016.

    I read through "Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace" once again. The authors advises us not to use nouns derived from verbs. If we follow this rule, we will write clearer prose, but if we do this all the time, we will limit our ability to make our language beautiful. In another book, "Spellbinding Sentences" the authors teaches us about gerunds, obviously because she expects us to use them. Now, I could have written my former sentence like this: "While following this rule will bring us closer to writing clear prose, doing this all the time will limit our ability to make our language beautiful". I feel like in some cases this is a much better sentence, but I could not write that because I was bound to the rule of not using nominalizations.

    Unfortunately, Spellbinding sentences does not offer much advice about clarity. So I am not really sure what rules to follow, when so many writers disagree about the rules, and so much good writing doesn't follow every rule.
  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Aug 23, 2013
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    Writers disagree about the rules because there aren't any rules, just ideas that work better for some people than for others.

    "Learn the rules" isn't as good as "learn how different authors do different things so that you can see what reader-impacts resulted from the different author's different choices, which result you like better, and what you would have to do to achieve the same result."
  3. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

    Mar 13, 2016
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    What you have here is a classic debate. Some people say 'don't ever do this', others say 'don't even do that'. The key to writing well is in the idea that you understand the "rules" and know when to apply them. The reason that so many wonderful books have come with broken rules is that in most cases the author understood the rules and broke them for a reason.

    Breaking a "rule" for a reason is much different from breaking a "rule" because you're ignorant to its existence.

    It's also important to note that these "rules" were invented as a way for people to explain this wholly ambiguous craft to other people. I think of them more as suggestions than rules.

    Suggestions are there for you to either take advantage or not. If you don't heed suggestion, you'd be better off to have reason for not taking the advice of someone more experienced than you.

    I don't think there are any steadfast rules for writing. Just things that some people do differently from others.
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    Writing is complicated. Learning to do it well takes time. If you enjoy reading rules, go for it, but they aren't an easy fix.

    (PS - count the gerunds!)
  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Aug 1, 2016
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    East devon/somerset border
    The other problem is that we need our characters to sound real , so beautiful language is all well and good if we are writing a well educated character who would have honed the beauty of his words and thoughts, but otherwise we need to sound like they would, which can be as simple as dropping the 'g' on a gerund "you lookin at me" or as complicated as say Heinlien's work in the moon is a harsh mistress where he creates a whole new set of speech rules to relect the mongrel nature of his luna penal colony " My old man taught me two things, allways cut cards and mind own business"

    So for me the main rule is 'sound authentic'
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Jul 7, 2016
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    I studied writing formally, and I have to say rules were never shoved down our throats. Sometimes there's good reason why things should and shouldn't be done. I think it's important to have a basic understanding of proper grammar and writing techniques. It's never that you can't do something, but sometimes there is a better way to do it. Knowing writing basics will help you with your judgement when it comes to breaking or following any of said rules.
  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

    Oct 12, 2015
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    On the Road.
    Also: What is beautiful to one person is ugly to the next. For one, I didn't like the gerund version of 'If we ...' at all. Much too convoluted ;)

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