I like to write mysteries because I like to read mystery stories. It all began with the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene when I was a pre-teen in the 1950s. I have four published novels, poetry and short stories.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Tricky Sentence Structure by Mary Deal
Let’s analyze a sentence from a story:
The story: Two women discuss a visit to a doctor. The one who saw the specialist is fine and found to be in good health. She tells the other....
“The cardiologist said my heart was strong enough to last another fifty years.”
The parts of the sentence that don’t jibe are the words said and was.
The word said implies something already spoken and is being related in the conversation. This word is correctly used.
The word was is past-tense and ambiguous. Used as it is in this sentence, it implies something has changed to the woman’s health since she visited her doctor; was healthy then, but now....
As stated at the top of this article, we know that the woman’s health is still fine, so the bit of dialogue must accurately show that as well.
Though the dialogue talks about something that happened in the past—the conversation with the doctor—the health condition has not changed in the present. The correct way to write that bit of dialogue is:
“The cardiologist said my heart is strong enough to last another fifty years.”
The word was is replaced with is, implying the woman’s heart remains healthy.
Simple nuances like these go undetected by most, even by many avid readers. Misuse of certain words and phrases are part of the colloquial way our English has evolved over time.
To be grammatically correct with past, present and future tenses in writing, we need to be astute and analyze our sentence structures and make them cohesive.
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Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist (past)
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2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist