How to Solve the Appositive Problem
In the first part of this post, we looked at some basics of grammar, including the use of the appositive and how lengthy appositives can interrupt the reader’s flow. Near the end of Part 1, we looked at three examples of this:
Jason, the team leader ever since he’d landed the multimillion-dollar contract and higher-ups subsequently took note, demanded that the next meeting would be at 9:30 two days from now.
The broad, a vivacious brunette with pale blue eyes that seemed to look through anyone who dared stare too long in her direction, sauntered her way into the hotel lobby as though she owned the joint.
Rex, a German shepherd who had seen his share of combat operations in the Middle East during the battalion’s last deployment, didn’t come home the dog he’d been when they’d left all those months ago.
Once more, there’s not really anything wrong with any of these sentences in the most technical sense of grammatically sound writing. But it almost feels as though we’re reading a book in between each sentence’s subject and predicate, doesn’t it?
Boil them down into their most basic elements and you have these sentences:
The woman sauntered.
Rex didn’t come.
Everything in between these subjects and predicates—i.e., the appositive—tells us more about each noun. But in each of the longer samples above, the appositive is so long that it becomes a negative.
Well, first off, a writer could revise the sentence to insert the appositive at the beginning of the sentence, which would pull the subject and predicate together. In general, that’s a good and fairly painless solution to try, but I’m not a big fan of it for any of these sentences, as the appositives still just seem too long and thus would break the flow of smooth writing.
So, next, a writer could revamp the entire sentence to insert the appositive at the end. This would take some doing, and an inherent danger would be falling into the passive tense:
The meeting at 9:30 two days from now was demanded by Jason, the team leader….
And you want to avoid the passive as much as possible. Still, the sentences could probably be rewritten to get the appositives in at the end while avoiding the passive, but they still seem like they would be too long in my opinion.
The final solution, then? Rewrite the sentence as two (or more) sentences to present all that you feel is absolutely necessary to us at that given point in your book. One example from above:
The woman sauntered her way into the hotel lobby as though she owned the joint. She was a vivacious brunette with pale blue eyes that seemed to look through anyone who dared stare too long in her direction.
Likely, we could come up with something more imaginative than starting a sentence with “She was…” but it’s effective enough here to show how the solution works to improve the flow. It’s clearer and more precise, which will allow the reader to remain engaged and not feel like he or she has hit a major speed bump.
Subject … Predicate … Appositive …
Not too painful, I think, in terms of revisiting some Grammar 101, and it helps us see the danger of lengthy appositives that threaten to interrupt the flow of your latest fantasy novel or how-to book on the basics of woodworking.
So, as you write, if you find yourself lapsing into long noun phrases that define or further identify another noun, then remind yourself that even a good appositive can be a negative.