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The following sentences describe a conversation between two people. The first person looks around, and the second person does the same thing but another action in addition.

"There's a lot of people here," Alex muttered, taking a look around.

Jim also took a look around and shrugged."Doesn't seem like it to me."

In the second sentence, would "also" apply to both actions or just the first? The intended meaning is that "also" only applies to "took a look around", since Alex did not shrug. I am not sure if I am overthinking or if this can be improved to minimize misunderstanding.

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You have already identified the key detail here: Alex did not shrug. Therefore, anyone reading this passage will assume that "also" applies only to taking a look around. If you wanted to make it extra clear, you could add a comma. "Jim also took a look around, and shrugged."

  • There's an increasing tendency to draft in metonymous quotative verbs nowadays: Jim also took a look around, and shrugged "Doesn't seem like it to me." – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '16 at 9:38
  • @EdwinAshworth That does work. Would you say that using verbs in a metonymous quotative way is a bad thing? I can't say I've recognized this trend, nor have I used it in my own writing. – Symantra Jul 15 '16 at 8:20
  • @Symantra There's more detail and the mention of an article at the History of smile one's thanks thread. I'd say it's quite common in popular literature. You can Google "smiled John" etc for examples. You probably have used such constructions (eg with 'roar', 'groan'). For a historical overview, see the Visser article. // I think that the usage is fine, creative if not (1) confusing, (2) childish or (3) overdone. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 15 '16 at 11:15

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