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I'm proofreading/editing a museum catalogue and I could use some help.

I found this sentence idiomatic;

"Around the beginning of the fourth century, extremely long chamber tombs emerged, a clear differentiation from the tombs of the surrounding regions."

The reason being that the part after the comma is made only with nouns. So I rewrote it;

"A tomb that was distinct from the other tombs in the surrounding regions was found, having an exceptionally long chamber. It is estimated to be from the beginning of the fourth century."

My question is: 1. Is my assumption that the original sentence is not grammatically correct right?

  1. Did I make it easier to read/understand rewriting it?

Thank you in advance.

Appreciatively,

Yeseul Shin

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  • First, if something is idiomatic it means that it's used and understood. I think you had meant to say that you found it ungrammatical. (Something isn't idiomatic because of mistakes that need to be corrected.) Second, although the first sentence sounds slightly odd, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. But if you're going to rephrase it, I don't think it warrants the drastic revision you made. Something like this would work: Around the beginning of the fourth century, extremely long chamber tombs emerged that were clearly differentiated from the tombs of the surrounding regions. Jan 15, 2019 at 6:22
  • Thank you Mr. Bassford. I appreciate your help. I couldn't help but rewrite that sentence. The original author wouldn't say she likes the change but I had to. Anyhow, I'd better listen to your advice and keep the original sentence as it is as much as possible. Jan 15, 2019 at 8:00

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The original sentence is grammatical, and Jason Bassford is right in suggesting that your revision is unnecessarily drastic.

The topic or theme of the original sentence is "around the beginning of the fourth century". Your amended version makes "tomb" the topic/theme* and may not fit coherently into the surrounding text. Furthermore, you have changed the plural tombs to the singular tomb/it, which may lead readers to believe that only one such tomb was found.

You are right to be wary about the overuse of nouns, particularly when the chosen noun is used in place of a more common and appropriate one. This is the case here with differentiation (→ difference). Replacing the noun with its equivalent adjective results in:

Around the beginning of the fourth century, extremely long chamber tombs emerged that were clearly different from the tombs of the surrounding regions.


* I am using the terms topic/theme as they are understood in the theory of information structure or information packaging. See Wikipedia's page on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topic_and_comment

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  • Thank you Shoe! The explanation you gave in detail helps me a lot. I appreciate it. :) Jan 16, 2019 at 1:16

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