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There is a scene in which the road the car is on is straight at first, but later starts to wave about. By 'wave', I mean its shaped like this:

enter image description here

Now my question is, if I write, "the road ahead started to wave a little bit," does it convey clearly the shape of the road? If not, what could be some other ways I can structure the sentence or should I, perhaps, use a different word altogether? Thanks.

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  • I think you would have better luck with the word "curve". "The road ahead curved gently to the left, before swinging back sharply to the right." Then if you wanted to work "wavy" into the prose, you could build on the image. "After hours of monotonous straight lanes, the road finally offered a little challenge and diversity. The driver grinned in anticipation of the wavy path ahead." – Henry Taylor Jun 13 '18 at 14:55
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    Actually, when reading "wavy road" I'd rather think of one that has a wave-like vertical profile (i.e. one that goes up and down a lot over short distances). – celtschk Jun 14 '18 at 8:20
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    When you say wavy road, the first thing I picture is something like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.. – David K Jun 14 '18 at 12:30
  • Wave implies up and down movement and actual motion. What's in your picture is sometimes called an "S" bend – Thomo Jun 14 '18 at 23:05
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A single bend in a road is, well, a bend or a curve. Multiple curves back and forth is a winding road. Wavy would imply it's moving somehow. The first example that comes to mind is in Tolkien, and of a stair/path. Here he describes it as snaking to and fro. This isn't a bad way to describe it if you want a darker or more ominous tone.

The Winding Stair did not delve into the mountains of the Ephel Dúath; instead the cliff-face sloped back and the stairway snaked to and from across it. At one point one of the turns overlooked the vast ravine at the head of Morgul Valley.

EDIT: Here's another example, one of many you can find with a Project Guttenberg search. This is from the opening of A Lady's Tour in Corsica:

The road is less interesting than usual in Corsica, and, for some distance, is almost tame, winding amongst low green hills, and by the side of a foaming river swept by willows.

There are no results for "wavy road" in project guttenberg, and a google news search shows results that are puns (kanye west waving... a long and wavy road), usage by what appear to be non-native speakers, or roads that look like the images @computercarguy posted below:

enter image description here

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    I was also going to say "wavy" implies movement of the road itself, not just the bending of the path. – Amadeus Jun 13 '18 at 15:28
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    I think I would say "curvy" for a road like the one on the sign. To me "winding" is more dramatic and also conveys that it's winding around some kind of obstacles (hills, lakes, sinkholes) instead of just curving back and forth. – MissMonicaE Jun 13 '18 at 20:32
  • @MissMonicaE You could say "gently winding". – user3067860 Jun 13 '18 at 21:51
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    I can't imagine a road in our universe that curves, winds, or wiggles for any reason other than to get around (topographical) obstacles. – De Novo Jun 14 '18 at 1:01
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    Huh. I thought a "winding road" would go in circles, like a spiral. You know, like a cable or rope or any other thing after winding it. In contrast, "wavy" instantly gave me the picture of curves that go back and forth. I don't think "wavy" implies movement, though. Wavy is something that has waves, and neither a skirt nor a curtain need to move to have waves. – JoL Jun 14 '18 at 1:41
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I would avoid "wave" and associated words - they will mean different things to different people. Did it move up and down like the sea (probably not) or did it raise a hand in greeting or farewell (I'm guessing it didn't). Silly examples maybe, but without your illustration I wouldn't have been sure what was meant.

Words like bend, curve, twist, turn would probably serve better, but if you're looking to convey the idea that the road really was like the symbol, you could play with that :

The previously straight road started to twist into a parody of the sign for dangerous curves.

You could also work in words like "tortuous" or "convoluted", but that will depend on whether they fit the type of story and its target audience.

I would have a bit of fun coming up with different ways to describe it, and see which one looked like it worked best.

  • +1 for tortuous & convoluted. – tjt263 Jun 14 '18 at 10:22
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With your illustration, I would call that a bend in the road. If there's more curves than that, it would be considered curvy. If it's a road that is just completely full of unequal curves/bends, it could be considered winding.

I've seen roads with straight sections, curvy sections, and winding sections, so a road doesn't have to stay one way or another.

IMO, wavy would tend to mean that the road goes up and down. This can be something with a series of hills or dips/rises in the road, or it could be a defect in the road.

Gravel road Desert road

The picture on the left is a gravel road that is damaged by the amount of traffic stopping repetitively at that spot. I used to live in the country, and almost every intersection that had a stop sign was like this for 20-50 feet before approaching the stop sign. IDK how it happens, something to do with how brakes work (even before anti-lock brakes), but it does. As Carl mentioned in the comments below, this is called "washboarding". This is what I think of when you mention a wavy road.

The picture on the right is of a road that has a bunch of depressions and rises.

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    +1 If someone told me a road was "wavy", these are the only types of waviness I would think of. Also, that phenomenon on gravel roads is referred to as "washboarding", at least in the midwest US. – Carl Kevinson Jun 13 '18 at 21:50
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    @CarlKevinson, I had forgotten the term "washboarding". I'll add that to my answer. Thank you reminding me about it. – computercarguy Jun 14 '18 at 20:15
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In that word structure you could write:

The road ahead started to wend.

It gives the feel that the road ahead isn't quite getting on with the job of getting you there.

  • I think it's a portmanteau. – tjt263 Jun 14 '18 at 10:14
  • That sounds like more of a meandering route than the curves pictured. Not sure how much weight to give the picture. – arp Jun 15 '18 at 10:31
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I think I would use the phrase "twist and turn".

  • Welcome to Writing.SE! This has ended up in the low-quality queue, because it's quite short at the moment. Could you expand this to explain why you believe this is a better choice than "wavy"? – F1Krazy Jun 14 '18 at 13:19
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Your title (which I saw before the picture) certainly conveyed something like your picture to me, but your later use of "the road started to wave" gives a very different impression! It made me picture something akin to the road flapping about like a flailing tube man.

If you do want to use "wavy" I'd say "the road began to become wavy" or something along those lines (though there are good alternatives already here), and avoid more strongly implying that the road moves by saying it waves.

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The road in your picture curves a bit. In a more extreme case it might be considered twisty or even be said to zig-zag back and forth. In a less extreme case it might weave its way among trees, rocks, or other obstacles.

(Disclaimer: I had a recent bad experience driving up a painfully narrow and twisty mountain road that tortuously zig-zagged its way up multiple switchbacks. YMMV.)

If a road was described as wavy I would consider that a criticism not of the path the road took, but of the quality of the paving, pitted, perhaps buckled in places, rutted from heavy traffic or pushed up by encroaching tree roots.

By the way, questions about the meaning and usage of specific words are pretty common on the English Language & Usage stack exchange site; that stack already has a question about good words to describe such a road.

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    Because the stack exchange app does not have a good way to find the url of a post. – arp Jun 14 '18 at 9:04
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I think you're thinking of:

The road ahead started to weave a little bit.

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If you want to demonstrate a creative use of an active verb that shows a mastery of plain language, try:

The road snaked back and forth across the landscape.

Used as a verb, 'snake', according to Webster, means "to move or extend with the twisting motion of a snake."

Looks like a snaking road to me!

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