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Advanced Writing concepts.

英語を勉強している方のためのフォーラムです。練習のために英語の文章を投稿してもかまわなく、英語の文法・語彙に関する質問をしてもけっこうです。

Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Infidel » Fri 06.29.2007 3:23 am

This is a thread for improving good English and making it better. Of course, please let me know immediately if I accidentally give a bad example.

Please don't quote examples of bad or unnatural English here. Instead, any examples should be proper, but still have room for improvement.

I got the idea for this thread when I saw this line from Coco-san.

The teacher brings in an old pen that Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency


Nothing is wrong with this sentence. However, concision is the goal when writing English. Thus, most of the editing process involves eliminating extraneous words. I will now create a sentence and show how the editing process works for advanced writing.

I have found that, "that" can almost always be omitted when used as a conjunction or an adverb.


Examine my sentence closely. The first "that" is being used as a conjunction. How does the sentence look without it? "That", I have found, can almost always be omitted when used as a conjunction or an adverb." (-1 word) Note that the sentence means the same thing. Now lets continue to improve the sentence and delete 3 more words. "That" can almost always be omitted when used as a conjunction or an adverb. (-4 words) Even better > "The adverbial or conjunctive form of "that" can usually be omitted." (-7 words) Best of all, "Usually omit the adverb or conjunction: "that." (-11 words) It could be argued that "Usually" can be omitted too :)

Compare
1. I have found that, "that" can almost always be omitted when used as a conjunction or an adverb. (18 words)
vs,
2. Omit the adverb or conjunction: "that." (6 words)

Which is easier to understand? Which sounds confident and which sounds hesitant? Which is easier to remember?

This should bring to mind the statement Mike quoted recently, "I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one." Eliminating extra words requires time and effort, but the result is stronger even if the original was natural and error free.

Now refer back to Coco san's sentence again.
The teacher brings in an old pen that Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency


Eliminate "that" by the aforementioned rule.
The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency


Now a good sentence is better.

Overuse of "that" is the despair of many English teachers. I wanted to point this out to disabuse any ESL students here from believing "that" is necessary to make sentences sound natural.

BTW zen, if you're reading this, could you add a strike through button to the editor?
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Kim Sara » Fri 06.29.2007 5:07 am

If u eliminate "that", the sentence becomes ANOTHER MEANING for sure.

As I read "The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency", I will understand that the pen named Franklin D.R, and the teacher used it during his Presidency !

So, the teacher had been a President B) B)
Last edited by Kim Sara on Fri 06.29.2007 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby katafei » Fri 06.29.2007 5:15 am

If u eliminate "that", the sentence becomes ANOTHER MEANING for sure.

actually, no it doesn't.
and that was the whole point of Infidel's post :)
it's a bit difficult to explain why, though.
Last edited by katafei on Fri 06.29.2007 5:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Gundaetiapo » Fri 06.29.2007 7:01 am

The teacher brings in an old pen that Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency


and

The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency


are equally natural. It's a stylistic thing and has nothing to do with concision.

BTW zen, if you're reading this, could you add a strike through button to the editor?


Actually I was thinking of making a similar request for colored text. It's handy to highlight text and then click the buttons. Buttons for red, blue, and green text would nice, since they are frequently used for correcting folks' Japanese and English.
Last edited by Gundaetiapo on Fri 06.29.2007 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Infidel » Fri 06.29.2007 7:31 am

Kim Sara wrote:
If u eliminate "that", the sentence becomes ANOTHER MEANING for sure.

As I read "The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency", I will understand that the pen named Franklin D.R, and the teacher used it during his Presidency !

So, the teacher had been a President B) :D B)

edit - removed the vitrol.

This is basic English sentenence deconstruction.

A sentence has 2 major parts. A subject and a predicate. The subject describes the doer or receiver and predicate everything else. I've color coded the different parts below to prevent any confusion.

The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency

For "Franklin Delano Roosevelt" to describe the subject, it needs to be moved out of the predicate into the subject, either specifically or parenthetically.

For example: "The teacher, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, brings in an old pen used during his Presidency." or "Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the teacher, brings in an old pen used during his Presidency." either would work. This is why punctuation is important.
Last edited by Infidel on Fri 06.29.2007 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Gundaetiapo » Fri 06.29.2007 7:46 am

If u eliminate "that", the sentence becomes ANOTHER MEANING for sure.

As I read "The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency", I will understand that the pen named Franklin D.R, and the teacher used it during his Presidency !

So, the teacher had been a President


It's not such an unforgivable error. Consider

The teacher brought in her dog Fido.


The word "called" got dropped.

The teacher brought in her dog called Fido.


She may have misread the FDR sentence in a similar way but with "called" dropped instead of "that".

The teacher brings in an old pen called Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency.


The error was probably in determining which word got dropped. For native speakers like you and I "that" is a pretty obvious choice based on the content of the sentence and the fact that pens are typically not named.
Last edited by Gundaetiapo on Fri 06.29.2007 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby richvh » Fri 06.29.2007 8:09 am

Infidel wrote:
Kim Sara wrote:
snip


The sheer gall to spew this unadulterated sewage on people that actually want to learn is nothing less than a blatant declaration of personal stupidity and idiocy, in the nicest possible accurate terms.


Infidel, calm down and look at Kim's location. She(?) isn't a native speaker.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby clay » Fri 06.29.2007 8:46 am

This is an interesting thread that Infidel made.

Some other topics may include:

1) When to use 'were' after 'if' (If I were a king. vs If I was a king.)
2) Knowing when it's "its" or "it's" (and their, they're, there; your, you're) [the apostrophe means there is a missing letter]
3) Effect/affect; farther/further
4) Last but not least a discussion on, my hero, William Safire's Rules for Writers:

* Remember to never split an infinitive.
* The passive voice should never be used.
* Do not put statements in the negative form.
* Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
* Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
* If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
* A writer must not shift your point of view.
* And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
* Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
* Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
* Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
* If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
* Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
* Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
* Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
* Always pick on the correct idiom.
* The adverb always follows the verb.
* Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.


I haven't seen this in one of his books, but I have no doubt he wrote it.
Last edited by clay on Fri 06.29.2007 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 06.29.2007 8:55 am

I dunno, I kind of agree with Gundaetiapo -- this seems to me like more of a stylistic issue. The idea of always being as concise as possible no matter what it's really something to strive for, IMO.

Particularly with this issue; "that" and "which" introducing relative clauses are extremely common even in edited prose and places like newspapers where brevity is considered a supreme virtue.

Compare
1. I have found that, "that" can almost always be omitted when used as a conjunction or an adverb. (18 words)
vs,
2. Omit the adverb or conjunction: "that." (6 words)


The problem is that these mean two different things; one is not a simple replacement of the other. The first one is a statement of your personal experience with the language, and it leaves the decision of whether to include "that" or not up to the reader. The second is a direct command.

richv: I doubt Safire himself wrote that; Safire would support those kind of rules, not satirize them (and that's a common bit of internet forwarding).
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Fri 06.29.2007 8:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby clay » Fri 06.29.2007 9:33 am

richv: I doubt Safire himself wrote that; Safire would support those kind of rules, not satirize them (and that's a common bit of internet forwarding).


Actually it was Clay. (Just want to get blamed when blame is due)

It may very well be a product of internet forwarding, but it is very much in line with his style. His books and columns are full of wit, wordplay and satire to make his point.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby AJBryant » Fri 06.29.2007 9:47 am

Kim Sara wrote:
If u eliminate "that", the sentence becomes ANOTHER MEANING for sure.

As I read "The teacher brings in an old pen Franklin Delano Roosevelt used during his Presidency", I will understand that the pen named Franklin D.R, and the teacher used it during his Presidency !

So, the teacher had been a President B) :D B)


Please tell me you're not teaching English, because this is totally incorrect.

Infidel wrote:
Here I am biting my nails that someone like Tony might come along and point out my grammar mistakes and ruin my credibility and then you come along and vomit all over everything.


Sweat it not. :)

Gundaetiapo wrote:

The error was probably in determining which word got dropped. For native speakers like you and I "that" is a pretty obvious choice based on the content of the sentence and the fact that pens are typically not named.


Except "that" was not "dropped" -- it is optional and stylistic. Likewise, "called" doesn't fit that sentence you suggest. It would have to be "her dog, WHO IS CALLED Fido," or "her dog, WHICH IS CALLED Fido" (depending on your feelings about personifying animals). The only really logical way for "her dog CALLED Fido" is if you're specifying that Fido was brought in, but Muffy, Spot, and Rex were left at home.

richvh wrote:
Infidel, calm down and look at Kim's location. She(?) isn't a native speaker.


Is she not? Seemed awful colloquial. I assumed she was an English teacher in Vietnam.

Tony
Last edited by AJBryant on Fri 06.29.2007 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby Gundaetiapo » Fri 06.29.2007 10:13 am

Except "that" was not "dropped" -- it is optional and stylistic.


Whether it's dropped or not is a semantic argument, and I don't know why you're picking an argument about semantics.

Except "that" was not "dropped" -- it is optional and stylistic. Likewise, "called" doesn't fit that sentence you suggest. It would have to be "her dog, WHO IS CALLED Fido," or "her dog, WHICH IS CALLED Fido" (depending on your feelings about personifying animals). The only really logical way for "her dog CALLED Fido" is if you're specifying that Fido was brought in, but Muffy, Spot, and Rex were left at home.


"a dog called Fido" is a possible native English phrase. Whether it's correct grammar or not I couldn't care less, so spare me it. If it suits you, replace my previous post with "a dog named Fido". Same difference.
Last edited by Gundaetiapo on Fri 06.29.2007 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby clay » Fri 06.29.2007 10:32 am

"a dog called Fido" is a possible native English phrase. Whether it's correct grammar or not I couldn't care less, so spare me it. If it suits you, replace my previous post with "a dog named Fido". Same difference.


Keeping with the theme of the thread, I'm glad you "couldn't care less". Some people "could care less" which doesn't make much sense.

Nothing gets us riled up more than arguing over grammar! Maybe we should change the rules to say, 'No Political, Religious or grammar discussions' B)
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby richvh » Fri 06.29.2007 10:40 am

AJBryant wrote:

richvh wrote:
Infidel, calm down and look at Kim's location. She(?) isn't a native speaker.


Is she not? Seemed awful colloquial. I assumed she was an English teacher in Vietnam.


In another post, she said she had to learn Japanese and Korean as well as English. Given her location and the lack of mention of Vietnamese, my conclusion is that she isn't a native speaker of English.

Gundaetiapo wrote:
"a dog called Fido" is a possible native English phrase. Whether it's correct grammar or not I couldn't care less, so spare me it. If it suits you, replace my previous post with "a dog named Fido". Same difference.


But whether or not "named" or "called" is dropped, the attribute "named/called/- Fido" should be set off by parentheses when not the main clause.

The teacher brought in her dog, named Fido, to show to the class.
The teacher brought in her dog, called Fido, to show to the class.
The teacher brought in her dog, Fido, to show to the class.
Last edited by richvh on Fri 06.29.2007 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Advanced Writing concepts.

Postby katafei » Fri 06.29.2007 11:51 am

clay wrote:
4) Last but not least a discussion on, my hero, William Safire's Rules for Writers:

>>>>>


I haven't seen this in one of his books, but I have no doubt he wrote it.


ROFL

Oh boy, that really made my day! Thank you for that.
I'll have to find me a book by Safire...
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