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As the Suspense Mounts...

As the Suspense Mounts...

By Miss Marm

The results of the fiction contest are still unknown because I can't make up my mind because I'm letting the tension build. In the meantime, let's pay a visit to the Land of Grammar!

A Sparkler sent me an email with the subject line "hook," the question, "Is this right?" and the sentence, "The people were desperate as they crowded around the opportunity to receive what they needed, consumption in a time of starvation."

I see three wrongs and one right.

First, the three wrongs:

1) You can't crowd around an opportunity. OK, you might be able to do so metaphorically, but in this case, I don't see a metaphor; I just see a weak turn of phrase.

2) The people didn't need consumption. When you're writing a paper for school, you might feel weird about using a plain word like "food." Don't. When you get all fancy and include words you're not completely comfortable with, logic usually goes out the window. This writer says, essentially, "The people needed consumption in a time of starvation." Unless s/he means, "The people needed their fellow citizens to buy and consume goods, thus pumping cash into the economy and lowering prices for everyone in a time of starvation," or "The people needed an old-fashioned disease to put them out of their misery quickly," "consumption" is the wrong word. What this writer probably means is, "The people needed food in a time of starvation."

3) The comma should be a colon. The phrase "food in a time of starvation" is an elaboration on the phrase "what they needed," so that comma should turn into a colon.

I'd rewrite like so: The people were desperate as they crowded around the thing they needed so badly: food.

Getting rid of "in a time of starvation" shows respect for your audience members, who are clever enough to figure out that if people are clamoring for food, it's because they're starving.

Here's the right thing about the sentence the writer sent me:

1) It's a good hook. It captures my attention, it plunges me into the action, and it makes me want to read on so I can find out who these people are and why they're desperate for food.

How would you rewrite the hook?

Topics: grammar, colons, commas, hooks

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