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I'm writing a story and in it, everyone sees this mysterious box. So, this crowd of people are: "Exchanging looks and _____________"

I want to say they are exchanging "Do you see it?"s Like multiple "Do you see it?" quotations. I'm not sure if this allowable in text, but I feel that there must be a way.

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  • In the crowd, people were exchanging do-you-see-it looks
    – Tushar Raj
    May 10, 2015 at 8:02

2 Answers 2

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It would certainly be "allowable", but the question remains: How effective would it be? I might go with a phrasal adjective:

a compound of two or more attributive words: That is, more than one word that together modify a noun. Compound modifiers are grammatically equivalent to single-word modifiers, and can be used in combination with other modifiers. Note that in the preceding sentence, "single-word" is itself a compound modifier.

wikipedia.org

Your expression would look something like this:

Exchanging did-you-see-that glances

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i don't know about allowable! but language use is, or can be, a creative process. if the primary aim is to communicate, then rules should be evaluated on a pragmatic rather than a legalistic basis.

you have a reasonable but non-standard communicative task, so rules are less likely to give the guidance you need. common-sense suggests that (if we are dealing with written language) some para-linguistic markers would be required, taking the place of emphasis, change of tone or accent, facial expression, gesture &c in spoken language. the means available may depend on context. twitter lacks font markups, so the convention of using parenthetic asterisks has evolved.

your best guide would be to study what previous writers have done, although it is not easy to obtain that information with the current rather rudimentary query facilities offered by public search-engines. (you could try writing to MI5 or the NSA).

my own unconsidered preference in this case, avoiding the pitfalls of over-elaboration, would probably be hyphenation. to give a silly example:

he seems to like talking to people, but when you look more carefully at what he says it's mainly hail-fellow-well-mets and how's-your-fathers.

the plurals look odd, it must be conceded, and i would personally not wish to compound the felony by inserting the bogus plural apostrophe-'s' which seems to be gaining currency. however despite the marginal infelicity, few would mistake the meaning, unless they were unfamiliar with the expressions themselves, so the communicative criterion enunciated above would be satisfied. your meaning would be conveyed.

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