Two letters arrived on Monday, and a third arrived on Wednesday.

Two letters arrived on Monday, and a third came on Wednesday.

Two letters arrived on Monday and a third on Wednesday.

Two letters on Monday and a third on Wednesday arrived.

Does adding a different verb, come, in the second independent clause than the verb, arrive, used in the first independent make the whole sentence better ? Because as far as I know using synonyms, if needed, are good for writing or on the contrary does the verb come makes the sentence confusing? I am just trying to develop a style. Id like to ask which one sounds better for a formal writing like a short story.

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    It's spelled parallel and you can remember that because there's two parallel lines in the middle of the word. At least that's what's worked for me since grade school. – Alan Carmack Apr 25 '16 at 23:08

While it's generally a good idea to avoid re-using the same word in one sentence or paragraph, I don't think that applies here. You have a parallel construction, you're talking about the same thing happening twice, and this is more clear if you use the same word.

For example, consider this sentence: "When Tuesday arrived I arrived at home to find that a letter had arrived." Clearly bad. I'm using "arrived" to talk about three different kinds of arrival. The sentence sounds repetitive and confusing.

But, "Two letters arrived on Monday and a third arrived on Tuesday." Now the kind of arrival in both cases is the same. You're indicating that a similar thing happened on Tuesday to the thing that happened on Monday. In this case, a parallel construction is good: use the same word. If you wrote, "Two letters arrived on Monday and a third came on Tuesday", the reader might think that you're deliberately creating a contrast: the letters on Monday "arrived" but the letter on Tuesday "came". Ok, in this case, it's unlikely to create much confusion, I think the reader will figure out that they're synonyms. But imagine a less obvious case. Like, "John registered on Monday, and Bob signed up on Tuesday." Now the reader might really wonder, Are "registering" and "signing up" the same thing or different things? Or you trying to say they both did the same thing, just on different days, or are you trying to establish a contrast between what they did?

To put it another way, avoid using the same word to mean two different things, or to apply in two different contexts, within a short space. But when you want to make clear that it is the same thing, use the same word.


"Two letters arrived on Monday, and a third arrived on Wednesday." Good. Clear parallelism.

"Two letters arrived on Monday, and a third came on Wednesday." Weak. Unclear parallelism.

"Two letters arrived on Monday and a third on Wednesday." Fine in this case. It is clear that you mean that a third arrived on Wednesday. In other contexts it might not be clear and you might need to specify.

"Two letters on Monday and a third on Wednesday arrived." Awkward. Normally prepositional phrases that modify a verb come after the verb. Imagine the sentence with just one day. "The letters on Monday arrived." You sound like Yoda. :-)

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  • Nope, not at all. "The letters on Monday arrived" is SXV but Yoda is XSV per Pullum. – tchrist Nov 18 '16 at 22:25
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    I don't understand your strange sentences. Perhaps you mean "XSV per Pullum Yoda is"? – Jay Nov 19 '16 at 5:28

Yes. It generally is better to use a synonym rather than reusing the same word for the second independent clause. Therefore, I prefer the second and third sentences. The fourth seems to sound a little awkward and if I were to use it as such, I'd place it inside quotation marks as part of a dialog:

"Nah, two letters on Monday, and a third on Wednesday arrived. But nope, nothing from Caroline."

Something to this effect. Then again, that's me. As someone trying to write a short story, a creative work needless to say, you have full liberty stylistically. Only, exercise care so that your sentences are written clearly, and the message fully comprehensible. Hope this helps.

I'm not a writer, but I try to write well.
Reading works by Flaubert might help. I also like F Anstey (his volumes are more lighthearted in tone).
There are numerous books --- including works from the authors I mentioned above --- freely available in gutenberg.org that may assist you in writing (e.g. "How To Write Clearly" by Edwin Abbott) and grammar, although nowadays some of the rules are deemed outmoded, even archaic. Yet I'm convinced most principles still apply today and are indispensable.
Lastly, this answer was meant only to be a commentary, but since I don't have enough reputations accrued here, I wasn't able to comment. The writers here in this group would have the more weighty answers and the better recommendations simply because writing is what they do best! What I wrote in response to your question was merely two pence!
Best wishes in writing your short story.

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