Colin was cleaning out in the attic

Bassim

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I am wondering if my sentence sounds natural. Would you please correct my mistakes?

Colin was cleaning out in the attic and came across an old photograph album. He saw a photo of himself as a child and his late father posing for a camera, and tears welled in his eyes.
 
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GoesStation

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It reads as though there is an unattended camera in the photograph. Is that what you intended?
 

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I should have used "photographer" like this:

Colin was clearing out in the attic and came across an old photograph album. He saw a photo of himself as a child and his late father posing for a photographer, and tears welled in his eyes.
 

GoesStation

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That's a little more believable, but it still sounds like the photo shows a father and son posing for a photographer.
 

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Let me try the third time.

Colin was clearing out in the attic and came across an old photograph album. He saw a photo of himself as a child and his later father in which they were posing for a photographer, and tears welled in his eyes.
 

GoesStation

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Colin would be clearing out the attic. If the photo is one in which someone is posing for a photographer, the reader imagines that there's a photographer's image in the photo, along with the image of the photographer's subjects. Many such photos exist, so it's not an unreasonable supposition.
 

Bassim

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Let my try the fourth time.

Colin would be clearing out the attic and came across an old photograph album. He saw a photo of himself as a child and his late father, and tears welled in his eyes.
 

emsr2d2

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When GS wrote "Colin would be clearing out the attic", he wasn't trying to get you to change "Colin was" to "Colin would be". He was drawing your attention to the use of "clearing out" rather than "cleaning out".

Your piece should start "Colin was".
 

Bassim

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I am exhausted of so many tries that I do not see clearly what I am typing.
I'll try again.
Colin was clearing out in the attic and came across an old photograph album. He saw a photo of himself as a child and his late father, and tears welled in his eyes.
 

GoesStation

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I'd write just clearing out the attic.​ The rest is (finally) fine. Whew.
 

emsr2d2

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Colin was clearing out the attic ...
Colin was having a clear out in/of the attic ...
 

GoesStation

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My (very large and irksome) inner stickler wants to see a hyphen in a clear-out. What do you think, ems?
 

Bassim

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This looks like a military drill. You are bombarding me with your corrections, and I don't know where to run for a cover.
 

GoesStation

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I feel like I've strayed into foreign territory by offering a correction to an utterly British phrase, ​a clear-out.
 

emsr2d2

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My (very large and irksome) inner stickler wants to see a hyphen in a clear-out. What do you think, ems?

I typed it as one word to start with, decided I didn't like it, added a hyphen, couldn't decide, changed it to two words and then just wrote the rest of the post without going back to it to reconsider. I still can't decide how I like it best!
 

Rover_KE

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GoesStation

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There's a clear general rule: the components of a phrasal verb are joined when it is converted into a noun. The method of joining is less clear. When the noun first appears, it's always hyphenated; it may be promoted to a full, unhyphenated word after a suitable fermentation period. Losing the hyphen is less likely when the combination is hard to read.
 

jutfrank

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There's a clear general rule: the components of a phrasal verb are joined when it is converted into a noun. The method of joining is less clear. When the noun first appears, it's always hyphenated; it may be promoted to a full, unhyphenated word after a suitable fermentation period. Losing the hyphen is less likely when the combination is hard to read.

Exactly. I deal with this issue very often. I always err towards one word, but as GoesStation says, sometimes it looks a little awkward on the page. I think clearout looks fine, though.
 

emsr2d2

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I wish I'd stuck with it as one word now!
 
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