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HELP! This sentence is driving me crazy! (1 Viewer)

Windsor Fernsby

Senior Member
I‘ve been spending a couple of days fine-tuning a scene I wrote. I’ve gotten most of the editing down, but there’s one sentence in the middle of my scene that’s bugging me:

”That surely would have been the end for both of them.”

At first, when I looked at this sentence, I thought it was OK. But the next day, I looked at it again and wondered if I should have written “That would surely have been” instead.

Then I thought about dropping the word “surely” entirely just to make it simpler.

I figured some outside advice couldn’t hurt, so I’m looking towards this forum...
 
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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
”That surely would have been the end for both of them.”

That 'surely' does create a slight hiccup in the rhythm and would sound better by switching it to:

”That would surely have been the end for both of them.”

That's definitely better. The question of dropping 'surely' is a stylistic one for me. Whilst it's not necessary, it does lend it a story-telling tone, rather like something Tolkein would write. If it's in keeping with your overall style, keep it. If it isn't, lose it.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
We lack context. How often are you including adverbs? Is it the narrator's voice, or dialogue? You can get away with adverbs in dialogue that are purple as the narrator. But even in narrator, adverbs are OK without overuse.

Odds are, you're OK either way, and it's something you don't have to sweat. This is NOT a sentence where readers have an OMG moment about your writing. ;-)
 

Matchu

Senior Member
Pt2 post, 2 of 2

As the small vessel was tossed between enormous rollers as each breath became saturated as the water rose to their waistlines as the whale thumped the crewmen this surely was the end of them kind of thing…
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I‘ve been spending a couple of days fine-tuning a scene I wrote. I’ve gotten most of the editing down, but there’s one sentence in the middle of my scene that’s bugging me:

”That surely would have been the end for both of them.”

At first, when I looked at this sentence, I thought it was OK. But the next day, I looked at it again and wondered if I should have written “That would surely have been” instead.

Then I thought about dropping the word “surely” entirely just to make it simpler.

I figured some outside advice couldn’t hurt, so I’m looking towards this forum...
To a certain extent, it's much of a muchness in terms of what's correct. It's about what feels right, what flows better, what maintains the pace you want. But you might also want to have a look around the nearby text to make sure you're not repeating the structure (this in particular is something I often fall foul of!)
 

Windsor Fernsby

Senior Member
Is "That would have surely been..." certainly wrong?
I think that would technically be correct, too. But then my problem would be even bigger!
We lack context. How often are you including adverbs? Is it the narrator's voice, or dialogue? You can get away with adverbs in dialogue that are purple as the narrator. But even in narrator, adverbs are OK without overuse.

Odds are, you're OK either way, and it's something you don't have to sweat. This is NOT a sentence where readers have an OMG moment about your writing. ;-)
Yes, it's definitely the narrator. I'd say my use of adverbs are pretty standard. The voice I'm going for is slightly Tolkien-esque with some funny side-notes, but I definitely don't want to make it sound purple.
Here is the context of the sentence:
"If they had landed on cold, hard dirt, that would surely have been the end for both of them.
But surprisingly enough, Fate--who is often unsympathetic towards those who are about to splatter their guts out--was feeling merciful that day."

Usually, I'm decent with grammar, but I start getting confused once I realize there's many different ways to arrange a sentence similar to the one above. I'd like to avoid problems like this in the future...
 
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EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I like your idea to eliminate surely, seeing the context. Usually I care where my adverb goes, but not for yours. My second choice might be to move it to the front. Surely that would have been the end of them both.

If I was in charge of grammar, adverbs that modify the whole sentence would always be in the front or behind the whole sentence. But I am not.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
‘…both of them…’ is rather difficult at the front of the face.

So good it might suit a part in a routine, certainly the narration evening,

Try yourself: almost South African dialect language difficult.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I think that would technically be correct, too. But then my problem would be even bigger!

Yes, it's definitely the narrator. I'd say my use of adverbs are pretty standard. The voice I'm going for is slightly Tolkien-esque with some funny side-notes, but I definitely don't want to make it sound purple.
Here is the context of the sentence:
"If they had landed on cold, hard dirt, that would surely have been the end for both of them.
But surprisingly enough, Fate--who is often unsympathetic towards those who are about to splatter their guts out--was feeling merciful that day."

Usually, I'm decent with grammar, but I start getting confused once I realize there's many different ways to rearrange a sentence similar to the one above. I'd like to avoid problems like this in the future...
There ARE many ways to arrange a sentence that are all correct. Again, don't worry about surely in that sentence at all. What I would concentrate on, if you're bent on tweaking something, are the two copular (linking) verbs (would and been ... "been" being an auxiliary verb ... "would" a modal auxiliary verb). You replace "been" with "spelled" or any of a few synonyms, and that livens it up a bit.

Again, you only worry about that if you have a concentration of copular verbs (look up copular spiders) nearby.

In the other thread I discussed making better sentences as I write, rather than in revision, and these are two examples. Early on, I both used too many adverbs and too many copulas. I did one entire revision of my first novel with a Word search for "ly[space]". I got rid of 2/3rds of them. Now, as I'm writing, if an adverb or a copular verb (or a few other things-string of prepositional phrases-horrors!) leaks through my fingers, I consider it then and there. I suspect both. I don't always undo either.

But ... since I did mention "string of prepositional phrases", I ALWAYS tear that out, rather than my hair should I run across it in proofreading.
 
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Windsor Fernsby

Senior Member
There ARE many ways to arrange a sentence that are all correct. Again, don't worry about surely in that sentence at all. What I would concentrate on, if you're bent on tweaking something, are the two copular (linking) verbs (would and been ... "been" being an auxiliary verb ... "would" a modal auxiliary verb). You replace "been" with "spelled" or any of a few synonyms, and that livens it up a bit.

Again, you only worry about that if you have a concentration of copular verbs (look up copular spiders) nearby.

In the other thread I discussed making better sentences as I write, rather than in revision, and these are two examples. Early on, I both used too many adverbs and too many copulas. I did one entire revision of my first novel with a Word search for "ly[space]". I got rid of 2/3rds of them. Now, as I'm writing, if an adverb or a copular verb (or a few other things-string of prepositional phrases-horrors!) leaks through my fingers, I consider it then and there. I suspect both. I don't always undo either.

But ... since I did mention "string of prepositional phrases", I ALWAYS tear that out, rather than my hair should I run across it in proofreading.
Wow, this is great advice! Thank you :)
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
"If they had landed on cold, hard dirt, that would surely have been the end for both of them.
But surprisingly enough, Fate--who is often unsympathetic towards those who are about to splatter their guts out--was feeling merciful that day."


Had they landed on cold, hard dirt, they might have met their end.
But Fate had other ideas.


42 words versus 18 words, and I've still found room to personify Fate. Might I suggest that a hard landing in dramatic circumstances is not necessarily the best moment to inflate a word count with description as it could detract from the immediacy?
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
As people say it depends a little on your intention, but usually words which qualify what follows make what follows a little weaker, words like surely, almost, just; or could or would. My advice is 'If in doubt leave it out'.
Contrast that to 'My advice would be if you are in some doubt consider leaving it out', that gives more leeway, and is possibly more accurate, but it is wishy-washy to say the least.
"Landing on cold, hard, dirt meant the end of them." It's as terse as landing on cold, hard dirt, though depending on the circumstances I 'The end of them' could also be changed to something more direct, like 'Death'.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
As people say it depends a little on your intention, but usually words which qualify what follows make what follows a little weaker, words like surely, almost, just; or could or would. My advice is 'If in doubt leave it out'.
Contrast that to 'My advice would be if you are in some doubt consider leaving it out', that gives more leeway, and is possibly more accurate, but it is wishy-washy to say the least.
"Landing on cold, hard, dirt meant the end of them." It's as terse as landing on cold, hard dirt, though depending on the circumstances I 'The end of them' could also be changed to something more direct, like 'Death'.
Don't you think that 'surely' fits 'the end of them' stylistically? I think if it was replaced with 'death' then 'surely' would need to go.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I think you are right, 'surely' doesn't go with death, people talk about 'certain death' :)
Style is entirely up to the author, sometimes there are general principals, sometimes they apply, sometimes they don't, if you know them you can make the judgement. Hopefully the more informed the decisions the better they are.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
I think you are right, 'surely' doesn't go with death, people talk about 'certain death' :)
Style is entirely up to the author, sometimes there are general principals, sometimes they apply, sometimes they don't, if you know them you can make the judgement. Hopefully the more informed the decisions the better they are.
I'd have to agree. Whilst I have played with many styles, there are still some I stay well away from, largely because of the vocabulary required. I'd sound really stupid writing a story about upper class people for instance.

"My dear sir," Thomas said and sipped his wine, "one has to know ones station."

Yeah ... right.
 
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