1. PHayz84

    PHayz84 New Member

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    Overuse of "as"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by PHayz84, May 23, 2020.

    Hi guys

    I'm not a very advanced writer, so apologies for lacking the specific terms to describe this.

    I have a feeling I overuse the word "as" in certain phrases in my writing. For example, here's the sort of sentence I use a lot:

    "The stranger stepped towards Nigel as he knelt with his head in his hands"

    Instead, would this be better, and if so, could someone explain why this is a preferred writing style? Is it a tense thing?

    "The stranger stepped towards Nigel, kneeling with his head in his hands"

    Thanks for any tips!
     
  2. Lazaares

    Lazaares Member

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    It all depends on variety. Overuse of any single term / expression / structure can feel repetitive.

    However, your second sentence is incorrect.

    Here the implication is that the stranger was somehow stepping forward /while/ kneeling with his head in his hands. You have to clarify a subject in the second sentence-part else it will default to assuming the subject of the first. You could reverse it to not repeat the object as a subject:

    "Nigel knelt with his head in his hands, a stranger stepping towards him."

    Or something along the lines.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My choice here, having no idea what came before or will come after, would be:
    "The stranger stepped towards Nigel, who knelt (or 'was kneeling') with his head in his hands"

    However, there is nothing wrong with the 'as,' the way you used it. It sounds as if you're using it fine, to mean a similtaneous action, but you're worried you might be over-using it. And you might be right.

    Rhythm of writing is established via more than just sentence-by-sentence tinkering. Rhythm is how the whole paragraph, page, scene, chapter will 'read.' Striving for variety is a good goal. You don't want your readers to notice that you use 'as' a lot. However, don't become so obsessed with variety that you end up screwing up the meaning either, by choosing other words that mean almost the same thing as 'as.'

    If you find yourself struggling to find an alternative word, it's an idea to look for a different image altogether, rather than just substituting a word or phrase. Searching for a different way to portray a situation can actually produce a richer segment of your story. Don't always go for the most obvious choice. Work it a little.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @Lazaares on both points. The second example is logically broken rather than syntactically.

    But as to the "as", you're using it correctly but it is one of those constructions that has a habit of becoming embedded in one's repertoire of constructions and over-deployed. Most egregious as the triple threat of he verbed as he verbed and he verbed. These structures most certainly have a place, but note how the actions in these multi-action structures are muted and dulled for being delivered all in one sack. None stands out from the rest. That may well be the effect one intends, but if it's not...

    The following is just supposition; take it for what it is: I think this particular structure joins the rest of the overused structures because, at first glance, it feels like a simple way to cut down on the mention of subject pronouns at the head of a sentence. If we take the he verbed as he verbed and he verbed apart and create three sentences out of it, we see that we now need two additional subjects. That's a lot of he, he, he heading up a bunch of sentences in a row. The trick is to remember that there are other structures that can be used to deploy the information to the reader. You can turn the action itself into the subject of the sentence. You can make it an observation about the action. You can do a dozen different things that don't begin with he verbed.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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  5. PHayz84

    PHayz84 New Member

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    This is great information guys thank you
     
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  6. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    By any chance are you British? They tend to use as instead of because, as in "As I was the first to enter the room..."

    That gets very repetitive to anyone who didn't grow up on the Isles, though I think they mostly don't notice it themselves until it's pointed out. If not British, then disregard this post. :)
     
  7. PHayz84

    PHayz84 New Member

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    I am British yes, a good observation! At least I noticed it myself, I suppose
     
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  8. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Ah, I love it when one of my wild guesses turns out to be right. Makes me look smart. Wish it would happen more often actually.

    Yeah, you should probably look for instances where because, since or due to that, or something similar could be substituted, and then do so. That should reduce the problem significantly.

    Or just change the construction of the sentence. Instead of "As I was the first to enter the room" it could be "I went in first, and what I saw..."
     
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  9. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Active Member

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    We know how to write and speak our own language, thank you very much, as I'm sure you're more than w.....bugger!
     
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  10. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Ah, so it substitutes for other words as as well (that one was unintentional). The one above could have been a 'which'.
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    As much as I'd like to say I'm immune to it, I use "as" as often as six or more times a sentence as evidenced here, especially when I'm trying to write as well as my favourite author, Isaac Asimov.
     
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  12. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    The First Law—A writer shall not use as, or through inaction allow as to be used in his writing...
     
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