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Wording help

Switch Blayde

I've rewritten this first paragraph in a chapter countless times. I finally like it, but I'm not sure about one word. Which is better (or you like better)?

1. The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breaths tickling his chest.

2. The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breathing tickling his chest.

It's between "breaths" and "breathing".

Here's the whole paragraph:

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breaths tickling his chest. Tiffany, on her side next to him, flung an arm over his belly. Her nude body stirred as the sleep faded, legs stretching out and then folding at the knees, followed by the side of her face grinding into Steele's chest. As if trying to sink into a pillow. Steele smiled as he brushed the unruly blonde hairs off her face.


Thanks.

Replies:   Zom  REP
robberhands
Updated:

I'm sorry, but I don't like either variant very much. 'The soft breaths tickling his chest" may make a sound but they are no sound.

ETA: The rest of the paragraph I like!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Zom
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Which is better (or you like better)?


Breathing. Breath(s) can be ambiguous and be misinterpreted as the sound of the air tickling rather than the act of breathing.

Crumbly Writer

IF it's a choice only between the two options, I'd go with "breathing, but I agree with robberhands, breathing (or breaths) is NOT a sound.

I'd rephrase it slightly:

The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breathing which also tickled his chest.

You're conflating different things. The breathing tickles the hair on his chest, but it has no immediate relationship to the sounds (snoring) his girlfriend is making.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

breathing makes more sense there, and only partly because breaths requires sounds. However, I think it would be better if you replace the soft with name's soft by using the name of the person involved.

Switch Blayde

Thanks, everyone. It was originally "breathing." I changed it to:

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breathing that tickled his chest.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@robberhands

'The soft breaths tickling his chest" may make a sound but they are no sound.


But even if they don't make a sound that your ear picks up, the tactile sensory nerves in bare skin being breathed on would feel the air movement.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Dominions Son

And if that would have been questioned, your comment would rightfully start with a 'but'.

I'm seriously tempted to add a smiley but I refrain out of principle!

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I'd rephrase it slightly:
The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breathing which also tickled his chest.

An improvement I think, but change 'was' to 'were'.
I suggest changing 'was the soft breathing' to 'were from soft breathing' to overcome the problem of breathing not being a noise.
Also, the relative clause created by using 'which' is non-restrictive, so technically it should be set off with a comma.
I'd prefer:

The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom were from soft breathing, which was also tickling his chest.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I changed it to:
The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breathing that tickled his chest.

I'd definitely change 'that' to 'which'. What follows is adding information about the breathing, not identifying it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

An improvement I think, but change 'was' to 'were'.
...
I'd prefer:

The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom were from soft breathing, which was also tickling his chest.

You can eliminate the "was" entirely by going with "which [] also tickl[ed] his chest".

Not that Switch is interested in out playing with his text beyond the initial suggestions.

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom were from soft breathing, which was also tickling his chest.


The sentence is long and clumsy.

The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom were the soft breaths which tickled his chest.


To make sure the reader isn't confused as to who's breaths, follow up immediately with a reference to his partner

AmigaClone

@Joe Long

My choice would be

The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom came from the soft breaths, which also tickled his chest.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Joe Long

To make sure the reader isn't confused


How many readers do you actually think would wonder if the breaths were coming from his next door neighbor or a burglar about to stab him with a knife rather than whomever he went to bed with?

Replies:   Joe Long  Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

to overcome the problem of breathing not being a noise.


You can hear someone breathing. That's what I was going for. That's why I changed "breathing" to "breaths" because it's the actual breaths that is heard. Obviously you can hear snoring, but take deep breaths and let it out through your nose. You'll hear it.

I don't know why "the soft breathing that tickled his chest" is a problem. The only reason the "tickled his chest" is there is to show that her head is resting on his chest.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I'd definitely change 'that' to 'which'. What follows is adding information about the breathing, not identifying it.


Good point.

Joe Long

@Dominions Son

How many readers do you actually think would wonder if the breaths were coming from his next door neighbor or a burglar about to stab him with a knife rather than whomever he went to bed with?


Himself?

Switch Blayde

I've weighed all the comments and made some changes. I went back to "breaths" even though most said it should be "breathing." I moved the woman's name to the first sentence. Hopefully that helps. So I took her name off the second sentence.

It should be "was" even though "breaths" is plural. The "was" is attached to "sound" which is singular (only one sound in the room). Here it is:

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was Tiffany's soft breaths tickling his chest. On her side next to him, she flung an arm over his belly. Her nude body stirred as the sleep faded, legs stretching out and then folding at the knees, followed by the side of her face grinding into Steele's chest. As if trying to sink into a pillow. Steele smiled as he brushed the unruly blonde hairs off her face.

Her eyes popped opened. She stared straight ahead before her head shot up. Eyes darting around the room. Tiffany sprang up like a jack-in-the-box, sitting with her back straight and stiff.

"What happened?" Tiffany asked.

Ross at Play

@AmigaClone

My choice would be
The only sounds in Lincoln Steele's bedroom came from the soft breaths, which also tickled his chest.

I'm comfortable with that. It was the version I was considering until a late change to prefer 'was tickling' over 'tickled'.

Joe Long

@Switch Blayde

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was Tiffany's soft breaths tickling his chest. On her side next to him, she flung an arm over his belly. Her nude body stirred as the sleep faded, legs stretching out and then folding at the knees, followed by the side of her face grinding into Steele's chest. As if trying to sink into a pillow. Steele smiled as he brushed the unruly blonde hairs off her face.


I like it, wouldn't have done it much differently.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Joe Long

I like it, wouldn't have done it much differently.


Thanks.

I think authors always have doubts.

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

Her eyes popped opened.

Aside from this mistake, it looks good to me.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@robberhands

Aside from this mistake,


Yikes! Missed that.
Thanks.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You can hear someone breathing. That's what I was going for. That's why I changed "breathing" to "breaths" because it's the actual breaths that is heard. Obviously you can hear snoring, but take deep breaths and let it out through your nose. You'll hear it.

The problem wasn't with the breathing, it's your saying that the sound of her breathing tickled his chest, when it's actually the faint breeze. Thus you'd use "which" to denote the indirect relationship between the two distinct elements. Secondly, you only use "that" in this context if the following relationship is essential to understanding the sentence. If it's not, you instead substitute "which". Ross was the one who insisted "which" demands a preceding commas (I wouldn't add one in that context).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

How many readers do you actually think would wonder if the breaths were coming from his next door neighbor or a burglar about to stab him with a knife rather than whomever he went to bed with?

Generally, when you establish someone, you don't leave the readers hanging, wondering who it is. However, I allow more latitude, as it's often more effective leaving some doubt before you interest the reader in what's happening. I often do that by immediately launching into dialogue BEFORE I identify the speakers.

Crumbly Writer

I'm not crazy about "grinding", as that involves physically removing something through friction, though that's probably just me. I think "nuzzling" would fit better.

The eyes popping open don't bother me at all. Eyes don't exactly "pop", but everyone realizes what that means so it doesn't require an explanation. It's clearly a sign of surprise and shock.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I think "nuzzling" would fit better.

I agree that is much better. While grinding does not always mean 'physically removing something'; it always suggests the use of considerable force.

The eyes popping open don't bother me at all.

The error robberhands spotted was 'popped opened'.

Ross was the one who insisted "which" demands a preceding commas (I wouldn't add one in that context).

More precisely, I insisted "which" technically demands a preceding comma when the relative clause is non-restrictive, and this one clearly was.
I think editors should feel obliged to suggest such commas but authors are not obliged to obey them. :(

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Generally, when you establish someone, you don't leave the readers hanging


True, but there is probably much more context here.

The text is identified as the first paragraph of "a" chapter, it's not explicitly cited as the first chapter.

If the end of the previous chapter showed the MC going to bed with someone specific, then the reader is not at all left hanging by not immediately identifying the breather.

There is no reasonable confusion. The only reasonable conclusion about the breather is who he went to bed with at the end of the prior chapter.

helmut_meukel
Updated:

@Dominions Son


There is no reasonable confusion. The only reasonable conclusion about the breather is who he went to bed with at the end of the prior chapter.


Except he went to bed with one woman and woke up with another woman in his bed.

HM.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@helmut_meukel

Except he went to bed with one woman and woke up with another woman in his bed.


1. Unlikely in the extreme.

2. If that were the case, she shouldn't be named before the mc realizes that the person in bed with him is not the person he expected.

Capt. Zapp

@Switch Blayde

I don't know about the edits, but that is one hell of a teaser for the story. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

Generally, when you establish someone, you don't leave the readers hanging, wondering who it is.


Since the very first word in the next sentence of the original paragraph identified the breather, I don't see it as leaving the reader hanging at all.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I'm not crazy about "grinding", as that involves physically removing something through friction, though that's probably just me. I think "nuzzling" would fit better.


I wasn't totally pleased with grinding, but when I clicked on synonyms I didn't find a good one. Probably because "grinding" wasn't the right word. When I clicked on synonyms for "nuzzling" I found "burrowing." That's the word I was looking for. The simile was a pillow which is more pliant than a chest.

Thanks.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The problem wasn't with the breathing, it's your saying that the sound of her breathing tickled his chest,


The sound is the soft breaths. Those breaths tickled his chest (skin).

I could have used more words and wrote "which tickled his chest" but elected to substitute "which tickled" with "tickling."

So it wasn't the sound that tickled his chest. It was her breaths that made a sound. And those breaths tickled his skin.

sejintenej

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the soft breaths tickling his chest.


The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the noise of the soft breaths tickling his chest.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@sejintenej


The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the noise of the soft breaths tickling his chest.


Isn't "noise of" implied when I'm talking about sounds?

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


If the end of the previous chapter showed the MC going to bed with someone specific, then the reader is not at all left hanging by not immediately identifying the breather.


That is the case. She wanted to make love to him in the previous chapter but fell asleep at the end of the chapter.

I don't assume the reader will read this chapter right away. That's one purpose of chapters — to give the reader a place to stop. So I moved the girl's name to the first sentence.

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was Tiffany's soft breaths tickling his chest. On her side next to him, she flung an arm over his belly. Her nude body stirred as the sleep faded, legs stretching out and then folding at the knees, followed by the side of her face burrowing into Steele's chest. As if trying to sink into a pillow. Steele smiled as he brushed the unruly blonde hairs off her face.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

More precisely, I insisted "which" technically demands a preceding comma when the relative clause is non-restrictive, and this one clearly was.
I think editors should feel obliged to suggest such commas but authors are not obliged to obey them. :(

That's legitimate. Ernest, Switch and I (among others) believe in ignoring commas when the pause they introduce to the reading of the sentence interrupts the flow (the pause often changes the perception of the sentence).

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

Since the very first word in the next sentence of the original paragraph identified the breather, I don't see it as leaving the reader hanging at all.

I had no objection to the usage. I was merely pointing out issues with not identifying a character early. But it's a guideline I routinely violate myself.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I wasn't totally pleased with grinding, but when I clicked on synonyms I didn't find a good one. Probably because "grinding" wasn't the right word. When I clicked on synonyms for "nuzzling" I found "burrowing." That's the word I was looking for. The simile was a pillow which is more pliant than a chest.

I agree, "burrowing" works better—especially in regards to pillow references.

Capt. Zapp

@sejintenej

...the noise of the...


Noise, to me, is an annoying sound. Maybe she was snoring softly?

Replies:   sejintenej
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the noise of the soft breaths tickling his chest.

That works, because it separates the sound from the "tickling" verb. Before, the relationship was muddled. Though I wouldn't use "noise" in relation with breathing (unless she suffers from nasal congestion). However, adding "which" seems like the simplest fix, as it utilizes fewer extraneous words.

Replies:   sejintenej
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't assume the reader will read this chapter right away. That's one purpose of chapters — to give the reader a place to stop. So I moved the girl's name to the first sentence.

I think it's largely unnecessary. I was simply detailing WHY you'd identify someone early in a chapter, but the next sentence is plenty early. A printed page later is much too late.

By the way, if you want to have fun, switch Tiffany for a black girl with unpressed hair. Then he's wake up with his face in a bush. It's quite a surprising contrast when you're used to white hair. ;D

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Since Lincoln Steele isn't breathing, he must be dead. If he were a zombie he would have eaten Tiffany's brains already. Therefore he must be a vampire, with Tiffany his food animal ;)

AJ

REP

@Switch Blayde

Breathing is the process of inhaling and exhaling while breath is the movement of the air that is being inhaled and exhaled.

So what is causing the tickling. Air passing across his chest hairs or the movement of the other persons body brushing against the hairs. My guess is the breath so that is what I would go with.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

My guess is the breath so that is what I would go with.


Me too. That's why I changed it back.
Thanks.

sejintenej

@Capt. Zapp

Noise, to me, is an annoying sound. Maybe she was snoring softly?

OK, how about "whisper" which suggests a very slight sound, even a touch of romanticism?

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

However, adding "which" seems like the simplest fix, as it utilizes fewer extraneous words.

Yes, that works. It is close to AmigaClone's suggestion though I would omit his comma

Capt. Zapp

@sejintenej

Noise, to me, is an annoying sound. Maybe she was snoring softly?

OK, how about "whisper" which suggests a very slight sound, even a touch of romanticism?


The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the whisper of the soft breaths tickling his chest.

Oooh. I like that much better.

sejintenej

@Capt. Zapp

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the whisper of the soft breaths tickling his chest.

Oooh. I like that much better.

YES!!! but how about changing "the soft...." to "her soft ..." ?
Nice and intimate

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp

We got a winner:

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the whisper of Tiffany's soft breaths tickling his chest.


Thanks.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the whisper of Tiffany's soft breaths tickling his chest.


WHAT!!!

What sound does a tickled chest make?

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

What sound does a tickled chest make?


Giggling/laughing. Duh!

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

What sound does a tickled chest make?


The only sound ... was the whisper of Tiffany's soft breaths ...

Replies:   awnlee_jawking
awnlee_jawking

@Switch Blayde

The only sound ... was the whisper of Tiffany's soft breaths ...


That works. It's when you then add 'tickling his chest' that it goes awry :(

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom was the whisper of the soft breaths tickling his chest.

Oooh. I like that much better.

Either drop the "the" entirely or modify it to "her" and it works even better, though I'd go for eliminating the "the" since, at this point, the readers don't know who's still breathing after the shoot-out the previous night. ;D

Replies:   Joe Long
Capt. Zapp

@Switch Blayde

I would like to take the credit, but it was sejintenej who suggested 'whisper' when I said that 'noise' described annoying sounds.

Joe Long

@Crumbly Writer

Either drop the "the" entirely or modify it to "her" and it works even better, though I'd go for eliminating the "the" since, at this point, the readers don't know who's still breathing after the shoot-out the previous night. ;D


Don't think 'the' is needed before 'soft breaths.' Like it.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee_jawking

The only sound ... was the whisper of Tiffany's soft breaths ...

That works. It's when you then add 'tickling his chest' that it goes awry :(


Why? It's the sound of her breaths. The breaths happen to tickle.

Instead of the tickle-clause, what if it was "coming through her parted lips"? As I said, I was showing that her head was on his chest without explicitly saying so. It doesn't change the meaning of the sentence. It simply adds to it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Instead of the tickle-clause, what if it was "coming through her parted lips"? As I said, I was showing that her head was on his chest without explicitly saying so. It doesn't change the meaning of the sentence. It simply adds to it.

How about:

The only sound ... were the soft breaths, tickling my chest

The comma breaks the direct relationship between sound and tickling. It makes "tickling my chest" into an ... apostolic clause (???). It's like interjecting a comma when two events don't take place at the exact same time.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

How about:

The only sound ... were the soft breaths, tickling my chest


I don't think the comma works. The clause is: "the soft breaths tickling his chest."

It could be: "the soft breaths that tickled his chest" but I don't really want to emphasize the tickling. It's not about his chest being tickled. It's about her head on his chest.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't think the comma works. The clause is: "the soft breaths tickling his chest."

It could be: "the soft breaths that tickled his chest" but I don't really want to emphasize the tickling. It's not about his chest being tickled. It's about her head on his chest.

Sorry, but this time, I don't see the hangup. The association between the breaths and her head lying on his chest are obvious, but the difficulty are the sounds physically tickling his chest, when it's instead her breaths, so you need a way to distance the sound from the tickling action, since they aren't directly related to each other (the breaths produce each, but the sound is a separate component).

Maybe refocus the attention:
The only sound ... were her soft breaths, the motion causing a tickling sensation along his chest.

It's weak, I know, but I'm trying to figure out what you're trying to avoid this time. At this point, if it were me, I'd settle it by breaking it into two separate sentences to break the conflict, whatever it is.

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom were Tiffany's soft breaths. Lying on her side next to him, an arm flung over his belly, her breathing tickled his chest hairs. Her nude body stirred as sleep faded, her legs stretching out and folding at the knees, followed by her face burrowing into his chest.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

The only sound in Lincoln Steele's bedroom were Tiffany's soft breaths. Lying on her side next to him, an arm flung over his belly, her breathing tickled his chest hairs. Her nude body stirred as sleep faded, her legs stretching out and folding at the knees, followed by her face burrowing into his chest.

"breathing tickled" can be read as two verbs - why not use the certain noun "breath"?
Omit "followed by" because there seems no connection and her face

sejintenej

We are now up to 60 attempts to sort out just one 14 word sentence in a story. If authors have to mentally go through this for every phrase I don't want to write any more.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

It makes "tickling my chest" into an ... apostolic clause (???).

Ha. Ha.
For those who may be interested, the term is 'appositive', which I assume it's derived from the same root word as 'position', rather than 'positive'. I think of it's meaning as 'in the adjacent position'.

CW, are you having difficulty reconciling my posts concerning the sample sentences from you and Switch that we are currently discussing? I'm not entirely certain about them myself, but I'll attempt to explain what I see as their similarities and differences.

Both are certainly 'appositive noun phrases', i.e. phrases positioned after a noun providing extra information about that noun.

Both are 'non-restrictive', i.e. they could be cut from the sentences without the identity of the noun becoming less clear, or in other words, they describe the noun rather than help identify it.

Both phrases are set off with the 'gerund' form of a verb, i.e. the -ing form of a verb NOT preceded by some form of the be-verb, which is required in all standard progressive tenses (aka continuous tenses) of verbs.

Gerunds are like the Thai silk of the grammar world: if you look at them one way they appear to be one colour (verbs), but look at them another way and they like something else (nouns).

With these two sample phrases, tickling his chest and spouting off like a New York cabbie, the gerund is functioning as a verb within the phrases - but the entire phrases are functioning as noun phrases.

The rule of grammar (for formal writing) is that non-restrictive appositives must be enclosed in commas (or similar punctuation marks), but restrictive appositives should not.

But … I hate the tickling-phrase with a comma preceding it almost as much as I hate the spouting-phrase without commas at both ends??? I don't recall ever seeing anything in any guide which suggests they may be treated differently, i.e. both must be enclosed in punctuation marks to show they are non-essential detours from the main body of the sentence.

I'm confident everything I've said above is correct … but what follows is pure speculation.

I see the differences between the two phrases as consequences of their different positions within the sentences. [Note. I think 'sentences' could be replaced 'clauses', and the same conclusions would follow within clauses of a 'complex sentence', i.e. a sentence with multiple clauses joined by conjunctions and/or (non-)serial commas.]

The tickling-phrase appears at the end of the sentence (clause?). There seems to be no need to alert readers that you're about to take them on a detour away from the main body of the sentence: readers don't need to remember anything to continue parsing the main body of the sentence after the detour is over. There is no reason to interrupt the flow of the sentence with a comma – for that clause in that position.

In contrast, the spouting-phrase appears near the start of the sentence – and it is separating the subject of the sentence from its verb! In that position it does seem essential to make readers aware when a detour from the main body of the sentence is starting and ending, so will know what's going on when they need to pick up where they left off.

I'm pretty sure that not every detour following the subject of a sentence needs to signposted with commas – just because it happens to be non-restrictive – but I think this detour, in this position, NEEDS THEM!

The reason I think this detour needs signposts while others may not is that it misdirects readers' expectations. When a sentence begins with a noun or pronoun, a subject, readers expect its verb to come next, or at least without any undue delay. If there's a comma after the subject readers are warned there will be a detour before the appearance of the verb. If there's some other part of speech after the subject (and I am speculating here) readers are warned there will be extra information about the subject before the appearance of the verb. The major problem with this phrase is 'spouting' looks like a verb, and readers will attempt to interpret it as verb, but it's actually functioning as noun.

Seriously, my brain rebelled when I read "You spouting off …" for the first time. It screamed, "That does not compute! The only way this can make sense if with some form of the be-verb, either are, were or will be, between the words 'You' and 'spouting'. I think a comma after 'You' is needed to prevent readers mistakenly attempting to interpret 'spouting' as the verb in the main body of the sentence (and once the first comma is used a second one at the end of the phrase becomes mandatory).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

CW, are you having difficulty reconciling my posts concerning the sample sentences from you and Switch that we are currently discussing? I'm not entirely certain about them myself, but I'll attempt to explain what I see as their similarities and differences.

Although your initial explanation was difficult to follow, it made sense as I use those type of sentences often, so it seems natural to me. However, I've never identified is as an "appositive clause". The name seems forced, when there are other, more easily understood terms, thus it doesn't seem like one authors would use.

Instead of researching the actual name, I decided to have some fun and tease you about the name. I appreciate the research you did, but the takeaway is, it easily relates to other indirect clauses, and should be separated—in most circumstances—with commas.

As far as my "spouting" needing commas, I resolved that by changing "You spouting off" to "Your spouting off". Separating "spouting off" from "Your" with commas results in a nonsensical sentence.

Your description also explains why my 'comma fix' for Switch's sentence works without having to make any other changes, as it's the natural form for this type of clause.

But I respect the research you did on this, and agree with it, though I still dislike using the awkward and odd phrase "appositive clause", as that's a phrase only an academic would appreciate.

But in the end, I agree with sejintenej. This discussion has continued on for so long, and no longer relates to Switch's efforts (and I suspect Switch has stopped listening long ago). In my own case, in the other discussion, I long ago changed the phrase so it no longer matches the one still under discussion, so the suggestions no longer relate to my usage.

Often, these discussions turn to ideals, rather than practicality. That's fine, but we should probably start marking those comments as 'this is not reflective of the original quote'.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

The tickling-phrase appears at the end of the sentence (clause?). There seems to be no need to alert readers that you're about to take them on a detour away from the main body of the sentence: readers don't need to remember anything to continue parsing the main body of the sentence after the detour is over. There is no reason to interrupt the flow of the sentence with a comma – for that clause in that position.


I honestly don't understand all of what you said, but it's this paragraph (especially the last sentence) the made me leave out the comma.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Instead of researching the actual name, I decided to have some fun and tease you about the name.

And your joke amused me. :-)
My research and post was intended more for the benefit of others. Gerunds are a particularly difficult part of grammar and the two examples, seemingly so similar but with one crucial difference, seemed like an opportunity to explain how they function.
As for terms like 'appositive', 'restrictive', and 'gerunds' being not descriptive of what they are, I agree, but I'm going to keep on using the "correct terminology" in such explanations. I think that's less likely to cause confusion to those who are interesting in learning about such fine details of grammar.

BTW, if you have changed 'You' to 'Your' then your sentence is correct without a comma. What you then have is like a New York cabbie as a restrictive appositive noun phrase, Your spouting off is a noun phrase and the subject of the sentence, and could cost is the verb of the sentence.

The like-appositive is restrictive because the meaning of 'spouting off' becomes less precise if it was cut from the sentence, so it should not be enclosed in commas.

The subject consists of a determiner Your and the gerund spouting off functioning as a noun. [Note how in that sentence I did not enclose the 'Your' and 'spouting off' in commas because they are restrictive appositives too.]

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I honestly don't understand all of what you said, but it's this paragraph (especially the last sentence) the made me leave out the comma.

I'm honestly not certain I understand it either. It is a tricky one.

Note, if you were going to use that sentence in a college paper I'd tell you that a comma was mandatory. I'd then suggest that what comes after the comma would sound more natural if it was changed to 'which tickled his chest'.

This has been an interesting exercise for me about when authors should disregard grammar rules which are mandatory for formal writers. The two examples are almost identical, but in one I found a compelling reason why commas were needed, while in the other there seems to be no reason to bother readers by using one.

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