re: Is “Which” a Legit Sentence Starter?

in Creative Process/Formatting/Punctuation/Grammar/General fiction/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I’m revising my middle grade novel. One editing change involved the use of the word “which.” I’ve been told to keep my sentences simple for my target age group, so I broke up several long sentences that had used the word “which.” For example, “It had felt like running away—which she had wanted to do ever since she’d moved in with her grandmother” became “It had felt like running away. Which she had wanted to do ever since she’d moved in with her grandmother.” These don’t sound right either. Now I’m totally confused. Can you shine some light on this?

Thanks,
H. P.

Dear H. P. …

In a stylized narrative, incomplete sentences can be fabulous. I’m all-in for “grammatically incorrect” when it feels right for the voice and overall narrative style. Legit! That said, in a more traditional narrative, an incomplete sentence that starts with “Which” can be a clunky distraction. Boo to clunkiness. The good news is, you can have your cake and eat it too: Go ahead and chop those longer “which” sentences in two for a simpler structure… but then replace “Which” with “That,” as in “It had felt like running away. That was something she’d wanted to do ever since she’d moved in with her grandmother.”

Happy writing!
The Editor

8 Comments

  1. When something sounds funny when read aloud, I’m inclined to do a more drastic change. Using that sentence as an example, I’d have changed it to: “It had felt like running away—something she’d wanted to do ever since she’d moved in with her grandmother.” But, maybe this didn’t answer her question?

    • Always great to hear your thoughts on a post, MaryAnn. I believe the questioner was trying to get to two separate sentences, but stepping aside from that desire, your suggestion makes for a lovely sentence.

  2. I prefer leaving out “something.”

    It had felt like running away. She’d wanted to do that ever since she’d moved in with her grandmother.

    • I like that. And you could push that further by removing “ever” too. I don’t think the power of that statement gets diminished by losing it. Thanks!

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