Being a dependent clause, it perhaps should not start a sentence.

Folks, let's talk about Dependent Clauses.

 

A Clause is dependent if you clip it at the commas, set it off by itself, and it immediately falls over. Case in point: In the title of this thread, "Being a dependent clause" is a dependent clause.

 

As a rule, starting a sentence with a depenedent clause is very risky. Take this example:

 

" Living in a secluded location in Scotland, a stranger approaches Orton and blackmails him into joining The Disciples of Retribution, a select band of vigilantes."

 

Okay, you see the problem, no doubt. " Living in a secluded location in Scotland, " is a dependent clause leading off the sentence. Question... WHO EXACTLY LIVES IN A SECLUDED LOCATION IN SCOTLAND? is it the Stranger? Because that's what the STRUCTURE of the sentence strongly implies. But since the dependent clause leading it off is not properly tied to the Main Clause (that's the one that has the main verb(s) in it), the person living in a secluded location in Scotland could logically be:

 

1.) The Stranger

2.) Orton

3.) The Disciples of Retribution

4.) A select band of vigilantes

5.) All of the above.

 

If we must start with a dependent clause, please tie it to the structure of the sentence. For example...

Although he lives in a secluded location in Scotland, Orton is approached by a stranger who blackmails him into joining The Disciples of Retribution, a select band of vigilantes.

 

Now... Who lives in a secluded location in Scotland? Orton does, because he is the first person named after the dependent clause. The stranger, the disciples, and the select band are now sentenced to live in an unsecluded but undisclosed location, which could be Edinburgh or Cornwall or the Dutch East Indies. Wait, how do we know that it's not all of the above? Because we specified it about Orton. This implies that it is not true in the more general case.

 

If we said:  In a secluded location in Scotland, Orton is approached by a stranger who blackmails him into joining The Disciples of Retribution, a select band of vigilantes. then we would not be saying or implying that anyone lived there -- perhaps all of them do, or they might have all met there on a holiday.

 

Yes, I know, I've gone pedantic about semantics. Sorry Folks, couldn't resist.

Comments

  • Enjoyable.

  • It's funny but recently I noticed that I was using a lot of dependent clauses in a particular

    piece of writing but I'm letting it ride. Each story I write needs its own voice so sometimes

    a negative can be spun into a positive. Don't you just love writing!

  • " Living in a secluded location in Scotland, a stranger approaches Orton and blackmails him into joining The Disciples of Retribution, a select band of vigilantes."

     

    On its own, that sentence could mean all the things that you say, but stories do not consist of only one line. It could indeed be misleading if used in some Description blurb, but if used in a story, the sentences before and after it, mainly before, should clarify what it means before the reader gets to it.

    Not that I would write that line like that, all the same!

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    danielblue wrote:

    It's funny but recently I noticed that I was using a lot of dependent clauses in a particular

    piece of writing but I'm letting it ride. Each story I write needs its own voice so sometimes

    a negative can be spun into a positive. Don't you just love writing!


    You're right, every story needs its own voice, and every character needs his or her own voice. And writing is a process of making stylistic choices. The dependent clause that leads a sentence is just so awkward so much of the time that it has become a bit of a pet peeve.

     

    Or should I say: "So awkward so much of the time, the dependent clause that leads a sentence has become a pet peeve."

    Smiley Very Happy

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    kevinlomas wrote:

    " Living in a secluded location in Scotland, a stranger approaches Orton and blackmails him into joining The Disciples of Retribution, a select band of vigilantes."

     

    On its own, that sentence could mean all the things that you say, but stories do not consist of only one line. It could indeed be misleading if used in some Description blurb, but if used in a story, the sentences before and after it, mainly before, should clarify what it means before the reader gets to it.

    Not that I would write that line like that, all the same!


    Using it correctly at least, you did make the underlined lead-off dependent clause marked in red.

     

    I suppose that I would be happy if people tied the clause into the sentence correctly, as we have both done. Too many folks simply grab any old dependent clause and shuffle it to the front with no regard for whether it makes sense to a reader.

     

    And with that, I will surrender the soapbox.

     

    (A footnote: This applies solely to English, of course. The French have raised the leading dependent clause to an artform: "La voiture, elle na va pas, n'est-ce pas?" ("The car, she will not go, is it not so?") )

  • 'Correct' writing styles change over the years, even though some die-hards say they don't. When I was learning to write (and read! (and yes I did!)) yonks ago we were told never to start a sentence with 'and' or 'but'. (One chap even said never use the word nice!) But now it is common practice. You may also notice many styles of punctuation in use, and often grammar as well, which at one time may have been 'wrong'. And I am not talking about self-published stuff but about stuff published, so also edited, by major publishing houses. While you are reading various books see if you can spot the differences. (And often the mistakes ...) There are also so many styles used on line by sites that should know 'better, it can get confusing wot is wrong an' wot is reet.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    One rule that will never go out of style: If the reader cannot reasonably be expected to know what you mean, it's wrong.

  • What do you mean?

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    Key word is "reasonably."

  • That's very unreasonable.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    kevinlomas wrote:

    That's very unreasonable.


    Reasonably unreasonable, but within reason.

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