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Is there a better way to format this rather complex sentence? (1 Viewer)

Kerry

Member
Hi, I am trying to improve my grammar (British or UK English) and struggling with the following.

It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole - the price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

The above seems ok, but I wonder if it is correct.

My considerations are -

1. It's kind of a list so a colon seems appropriate
2. The second independent clause needs to be 'linked' but to use a semicolon would complicate things because I have already used a colon, a comma may seem confusing, so I have used an em dash.
3. Would it be better as two seperate sentences, as in -

It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole.The price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

This last option seems correct but destroys the flow.

Lastly should it be at he end - ‘Give us a quid’. I ask because usually the period would be inside the quotes - ‘Give us a quid.' but it is at the end of a sentence.

Help please :)
 

Lawless

Senior Member
The first one looks perfectly readable to me, so as a reader, I wouldn't complain. I mean, it doesn't have to be split into two sentences.

I don't know about the punctuation rules, though.
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
I would use a second em-dash in place of the colon. Not because the colon is wrong, but simply to minimize the number of punctuation marks used. Also, since the "Give us a quid" is complete sentence, I believe the period should be within the quotation marks.

It didn’t matter what the job was - paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole - the price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid.’
 

LCLee

Financial Supporter
It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole - the price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

Just my 2 cents worth. I tightened it up a bit and used the em dash to make the list parenthetical. Hope this helps.

No matter what the job was—paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole—the price was always the same, ‘Give us a quid.’
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Hi, I am trying to improve my grammar (British or UK English) and struggling with the following.

It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole - the price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

The above seems ok, but I wonder if it is correct.

My considerations are -

1. It's kind of a list so a colon seems appropriate
2. The second independent clause needs to be 'linked' but to use a semicolon would complicate things because I have already used a colon, a comma may seem confusing, so I have used an em dash.
3. Would it be better as two seperate sentences, as in -

It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole.The price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

This last option seems correct but destroys the flow.

Lastly should it be at he end - ‘Give us a quid’. I ask because usually the period would be inside the quotes - ‘Give us a quid.' but it is at the end of a sentence.

Help please :)

Hi @Kerry,
I'm with @Terry D here ... the 'Give us a Quid,' can be a separate sentence and the first sentence maybe semi colon instead?

It didn't matter what the job was; paint a fence, load a lorry, dig a hole, the price he would quote was always the same. "Give us a Quid"

I was born and live in England and I have never come across that phrase 'Give us a Quid,' especially for manual labour jobs like painting a fence! It's a little more than a pound.

Maybe 'I'll do it for a couple of extra Quid' or 'It will cost you a few bob,' or even just a straight up price; 'For you my love, twenty Quid, you can't get better than that.' Give us a quid literally means give me one pound and i'm not sure that's what they want?
 

Kerry

Member
Hi @Kerry,
I'm with @Terry D here ... the 'Give us a Quid,' can be a separate sentence and the first sentence maybe semi colon instead?

It didn't matter what the job was; paint a fence, load a lorry, dig a hole, the price he would quote was always the same. "Give us a Quid"

I was born and live in England and I have never come across that phrase 'Give us a Quid,' especially for manual labour jobs like painting a fence! It's a little more than a pound.

Maybe 'I'll do it for a couple of extra Quid' or 'It will cost you a few bob,' or even just a straight up price; 'For you my love, twenty Quid, you can't get better than that.' Give us a quid literally means give me one pound and i'm not sure that's what they want?
Hi, thanks for the feedback, nice forum, nice people. I had decided on a final result, and I show it below. I have added an 'Oxford comma' before the 'or' in the list of jobs. But I also like your solution, it's simpler. I also want to address your valid concerns about the price quoted, out of courtesy and for further explanation. First of all, the story is set in 1970, when the average weekly wage was around 30 pounds and a pint of beer cost around 20p. I did not show the full context before, since I was only addressing the grammar. The character is based on a real person that lives near me. He is a beggar known as 'Billy the Quid' because as people walk past, he greets them "Mornin', give us a quid."

A figure emerged from the red phone box opposite; it was Billy the Quid. He was called Billy the Quid because he would undertake odd jobs for a pound a time. It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry, or dig a hole - the price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid.'
 
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Kerry

Member
So many useful suggestions. I have learned a lot Thank's guys. I think this experience emphasises the fact that there are always a number of correct solutions. I need to concentrate on what best fits my writing style. I need to forget about trying to find the best possible grammar and just ensure it is grammatically correct, flows, and imparts the meaning and feeling I intend. Thanks.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I haven't read the other responses. Although the original sentence is completely readable, my preferred way would be to have "paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole" between two dashes - one at each end. I'm not offering my way as the right way, merely as the way I would probably prefer. A caveat is that it fits with the general style of the piece, something that we can't know for sure in a short extract.
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
...It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole.The price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.
This last option seems correct but destroys the flow....

While I agree with @Phil Istine, that we don't know the context or style, and so any speculation is just that, speculation, I would like to add something more to the discussion. Often times we can clarify our concepts and ideas by shortening the sentence. You've got a version of this already, but even so, give this a try:

It didn't matter what the job was, to paint a fence, load a ferry or dig a hole. The price he would quote was always the same: "Give us a quid."

Yes, it changes the flow, but you do go from having one 31-word sentence to two sentences having 18- and 13-words each, respectively. If each sentence is to bear the weight of exactly one idea each, then you've separated out the ideas implied in the long sentence so they can be more easily taken in by the reader.
 

RGS

Senior Member
Hi, I am trying to improve my grammar (British or UK English) and struggling with the following.

It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole - the price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

The above seems ok, but I wonder if it is correct.

My considerations are -

1. It's kind of a list so a colon seems appropriate
2. The second independent clause needs to be 'linked' but to use a semicolon would complicate things because I have already used a colon, a comma may seem confusing, so I have used an em dash.
3. Would it be better as two seperate sentences, as in -

It didn’t matter what the job was: paint a fence, load a lorry or dig a hole.The price he would quote was always the same, ‘Give us a quid’.

This last option seems correct but destroys the flow.

Lastly should it be at he end - ‘Give us a quid’. I ask because usually the period would be inside the quotes - ‘Give us a quid.' but it is at the end of a sentence.

Help please :)

To me, it looks fine "as is." One alternative would be:

His price quote of "Give us a quid" was constant, whether it was painting a fence, loading a lorry, or digging a hole.
 
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