Uncategorized · Writing Snippets & Exercises

Verb Confusion or Dang Good Writing?

She shuddered a sigh.

Word would tell you that sentence is wrong. The reason it gives for the green under-squiggles making a blot on my lovely page of words is “verb confusion.” Usually this roadblock to the next great novel would have me sighing in a longsuffering way and tweaking the sentence until Word was appeased. But I left it. That’s right! I looked straight at that green squiggle and said, “Don’t tell me how to write! I’m the author here, you foolish thing!”

I’m counting on the fact that someone reading that line will be involved in the story enough to know what I mean and not pick at grammar rules. And if that isn’t the case I’ve strayed somewhere in the story long before leaving known errors in the narrative.

I wholeheartedly believe in proper grammar. I believe you should know the rules before you break them and if break them you must, do it knowingly and right.

The verbs may be confused, but are you?

Haven’t you ever shuddered a sigh?

Tell me about your favorite rule of grammar to break. I’m feeling defiant this afternoon. ;)

~B~

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6 thoughts on “Verb Confusion or Dang Good Writing?

  1. You can totally shudder a sigh. :D I once wrote ” the scarlet stains on my dress vivid and frantic.” (Blood for a Rose)
    It works, even though technically stains can’t be frantic. Sort of.

  2. I think what Word is getting at is that “shudder” is intransitive, and you’re using it like it’s transitive.

    And, well, I don’t know . . . just reading that sentence out of context, I’m inclined to agree with Word. I know *I* would change it. But likely if I read it in the story it would pass right over me. This could just be me being too much of a stickler when it comes to writing.

    Oh, by the way, please forgive my use of asterisks for italics. When it doesn’t allow italics, I normally capitalize, but that wouldn’t change anything in this case. :(

    1. No, see, I *understand* why it’s wrong, I simply don’t care. Or I do care… I actually love how that sentence reads so I left it.

      To me, shuddering a sigh is that after-crying phase when you sigh deeply but because you’ve been crying so much it comes out in a shaky kind of broken up breath. You know? It’s one of the most pathetic sounds ever.

      That’s okay. I do it too. :)

      1. I totally understand what you’re trying to convey with the words “shuddered a sigh,” and like I said, if I read it in the story it would likely pass right over me. I just don’t think that *I* would use such a phrase. Maybe that’s a bad thing, though. Maybe I should be more free with my writing. I mean, I know I have this problem with poetry. A lot of my poems stick too close to the meter, so the rhythm is probably very monotonous. All the literature books say that the metrical irregularities are the most important part of a poem . . . but I have so much trouble putting them in! I think I like monotonous rhythms! Which must mean that I don’t have the taste for poetry. . . . That makes me sad.

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