Tag Archives: Pronouns

Dem Dez and Does — notes from my editor.

IF anybody is still reading this – I’ve been so remiss from keeping up, even though I think about it often – here’s a bit of good info from my editor.  It is in response to my note to him about a wee too many pronouns in his edit. she-he-it = dem- dez-does.

His response, as always, is full of light and clarity.  Hope you enjoy —

Oh, and by the by — LOST my glasses while surf fishing (boo hoo), now considering options for the replacement — what do you think of these vintage ones? 

(I currently use them a readers when wearing my contacts) Are they too much for daily wear?

And now a lesson from my editor . . .

Laura, lass

Thanks for the kind words on my edits. My job is to be the person who buys your book and reads it. That person will be so immersed in the story (because it’s a good one) that
she/he will detect discrepancies or false notes. I’ve had a lot of practice.

Which leads us to those pronouns …

It’s about clarity; who  did what. For instance, in this sentence:”Myrtle didn’t understand why Estelle became distant and James remained absent from all community events and became increasingly depressed at the sudden crash of her dream for a June wedding.”  it is James who  is becoming increasingly depressed (read only the bold part).

So it needs to be: “Myrtle didn’t understand why Estelle became distant and James remained absent from all community events, and she became increasingly depressed at the sudden crash of her dream for a June wedding.”

See? (I know you do.) ((and of course I did))

Now, you could just stick in a comma, so it reads: “Myrtle didn’t understand
why Estelle became distant and James remained absent from all community
events, and became
increasingly depressed …”

but when you insert the comma, what comes after it is a clause, not a phrase, and clauses need subjects (thus the “she”). Moreover, there are so many words between “Myrtle” and “became
increasingly depressed (including two other characters),” the reader needs to be
reminded who “doesn’t understand.” So the edited version is not only grammatically correct, it’s simply clearer.

In other instances, the difference is more subtle, but it’s still important. As in this
sentence: “James left Gladdenbury in a huff after the confrontation with his father and returned only for an obligatory appearance at their traditional Christmas Day open house,
where he attended select friends and clients but steered clear of his parents and the Howes, and subsequently turned down every invitation his mother extended thereafter.”
When you read this section: … Christmas Day open house, where he attended select friends and clients but steered clear of his parents and the Howes, and subsequently turned down every invitation

it reads as if the turning down of invitations happens at the Christmas Day open house, when it  actually happens in the time after the party (true, you put “thereafter” at the end of the sentence, but then you’re requiring the reader to go back and unthink what he/she already thinks. ((good point!  As a reader, I hate that))

So:  “… Christmas Day open house, where he attended select friends and clients but steered clear of his  parents and the Howes, and he subsequently turned down every
invitation …”  creates a new  timeframe.

In this sentence, I’m  not actually sure I was right to insert the pronoun (imagine
that!):  “Celeste dug in her heels in spite of knowing she’d made a selfish mistake, ignoring Gamma’s urging to apologize, and pretended not to care what Ede said or did.:

But the syntax is confusing; it jumps from past tense (dug in her heels) to present tense (knowing, ignoring) back to past (pretended). How it should read, I believe, is:

“Celeste dug in her heels in spite of knowing she’d made a selfish mistake. She ignored Gamma’s urging to apologize and pretended not to care what Ede said or did.”

But that’s how I would write it, not how you would, so I just tried to do a patch-up
job with the insertion of the pronoun (she): “Celeste dug in her heels in spite of knowing
she’d made a selfish mistake, ignoring Gamma’s urging to apologize, and she
pretended not to care what Ede said or did.”

It just sounds more clear to me that way. ((I think I like the way he re-wrote the sentence, breaking it in two….must relfect more))

Granted, not all readers (and possibly only a few — including the NYT reviewer,
perhaps?) will have any clue about these differences, but why not always make
the first reading as clear as possible? I know how carefully you have  crafted the sound and feel of the writing (which is part of what makes you an artist), but you must remember that because you are the writer, you always know where the sentences are going; the reader is always going along blindly and must be lead very carefully, lest he/she stumble and have to
backtrack for clarity.

That said, not all of my pronoun insertions are absolutely necessary; some sentences are clear enough without them. But as I hinted above, professional readers will pick up on these
things, and they just might get turned off by the little things that do not bother a casual reader.

Anyway, I never forget it is your book, and it should sound the way you want it to sound, so unless I think it creates a real problem, I’ll always bow to your discretion.

Cheerio, and let’s get together soon.

xox

G.

((ISN’T HE GREAT?!))

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