Suddenly, he saw a boy.

99bottles

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Suddenly, he saw a boy. He had black hair and blue eyes.

Here is what is worrying me: Since both of them (the boy and the one who saw it) are male, does the use of the word he make the sentence ambiguous? Or does the context make it clear that it's the boy who has black hair and blue eyes?
 

jutfrank

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Yes, the change of reference of he is distracting.

It's pretty obvious that the second he refers to the boy, but there certainly is a question in the reader's mind. For this reason, it's poor writing.
 
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99bottles

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Yes, the change of reference of he is distracting.

It's pretty obvious that the second he refers to the boy, but there certainly is a question in the reader's mind. For this reason, it's poor writing.
So, should I write the aforementioned boy?
 

jutfrank

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No, definitely not. That word has a completely inappropriate register for this kind of writing. It's used only in certain very formal text types. Not in your kind of fiction.
 

5jj

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Try:
Suddenly, he saw a boy with black hair and blue eyes.
 

99bottles

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Try:
Suddenly, he saw a boy with black hair and blue eyes.
Yes, it can work in this specific case. But it has occurred to me that, in my manuscript, there are several sentences that have a similar issue and are more complicated. For instance:

John couldn't discern the man's features, for he was wearing a mask. (Is it clear that it was the nameless man, not John, who was wearing a mask, or do I have to rewrite it?)
 

99bottles

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No, definitely not. That word has a completely inappropriate register for this kind of writing. It's used only in certain very formal text types. Not in your kind of fiction.
Is it technically wrong to use it here, or is it just too formal?
 

99bottles

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What do you mean by 'technically wrong'?
Is it a language mistake to say the aforementioned boy? Or is it a mistake only in that it is too formal?
 

5jj

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Is it a language mistake to say the aforementioned boy? Or is it a mistake only in that it is too formal?
It is a mistake in register. That is a language mistake, though not a grammar one.
 

jutfrank

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Are you suggesting that using a word of inappropriate register isn't a language mistake? What do you mean by a 'language mistake', then?

Think of it as a vocabulary error. More specifically, an error of word choice.

[cross-posted]
 

99bottles

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Are you suggesting that using a word of inappropriate register isn't a language mistake? What do you mean by a 'language mistake', then?

Think of it as a vocabulary error. More specifically, an error of word choice.

[cross-posted]
So, how should I word it instead?
 

jutfrank

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We can't tell you what to write because that depends on things that only you know, such as the wider context, the style that you have, the effect you want to have on the writer, etc.

Are you able to say why 5jj's suggestion of Suddenly, he saw a boy with black hair and blue eyes is not suitable? Why are you trying to use two separate sentences in the first place? How can you expect us to know exactly what you want to do? We can't very well give you editorial advice if we can't see the text, can we?
 
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99bottles

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We can't tell you what to write because that depends on things that only you know, such as the wider context, the style that you have, the effect you want to have on the writer, etc.

Are you able to say why 5jj's suggestion of Suddenly, he saw a boy with black hair and blue eyes is not suitable? Why are you trying to use two separate sentences in the first place? How can you expect us to know exactly what you want to do? We can't very well give you editorial advice if we can't see the text, can we?
OK. Can you at least try to help me with Post # 6?
 

5jj

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You need to rewrite the sentence.
 

jutfrank

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Can you at least try to help me with Post # 6?
Once again, you've effected a certain tone here. If a native speaker said this, I would sense that he was impatient and dissatisfied with the answers he had so far received.

Is that the effect that you intended to have? Remember that we are trying to help you, and more importantly, trying to teach you something.
 

99bottles

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Is that the effect that you intended to have?
No.

How about this?

A man came out. John couldn't discern the man's/that man's features, for he/the man/that man was wearing a mask.

In that case, do I have to fill both gaps with the man (or that man?), or can I write he in the second gap?
 

jutfrank

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You can use his and he respectively in the gaps without causing any distraction in reference.

I don't think you mean to use for. Use as.
 

99bottles

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1. You can use his and he respectively in the gaps without causing any distraction in reference.

2. I don't think you mean to use for. Use as.
1. Wait, if I can use it in both gaps, then why did you say (in Post # 2) that using he is distracting?

2. I thought for can be used instead of because. Have I got it wrong?
 

jutfrank

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1. That was a completely different context. This question shows me that you've seriously misunderstood the role of context on meaning and use.

2. Yes, you have. The two words have quite different uses.
 
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