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Exhausted, I continued lying on my back. A cloud drifted lazily in the sky, heart-shaped, its curves flawlessly outlined as if drawn with a compass.

Or should I write this instead?

Exhausted, I continued lying on my back. A cloud drifted lazily in the sky. Heart-shaped, its curves flawlessly outlined as if drawn with a compass.

  • I prefer the first version. But somehow the "lazily" feels less than perfect to me. How about "a lazy cloud, heart-shaped, flawlessly outlined as if drawn with a compass, drifted ..."? – user5645 Jan 9 '15 at 11:38
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    The second one seems wrong, as the sentance has no explicit subject. I'd go for the first one; getting the noun out of the way first makes the description make sense right away, were it the other way we wouldn't know what you're describing until you finish. – CLockeWork Jan 9 '15 at 11:58
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    @what Your version is grammatically correct but subtly different, because "lazily" modifies "drifting," but "lazy" modifies "A cloud." To me, "lazily drifting" emphasizes the movement, but "A lazy cloud drifting" sounds like it could stop and start again (as if the cloud couldn't be bothered to keep going consistently). A matter of personal taste. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 9 '15 at 12:52
  • @what I'm curious why do you think that sentence is less than perfect? – Alexandro Chen Jan 9 '15 at 13:07
  • I'm averse to adverbs that end in -ily. Somehow they seem to be rarely used in the fiction I read and therefore always stand out to me when I encounter them. But I may be wrong. I'm not a native speaker of English. – user5645 Jan 9 '15 at 13:17
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The first one is correct, because it's a two-word clause modifying cloud. The second one would need some kind of verb in the last sentence, and the modifier is perilously close to dangling regardless.

(Separately, isn't a compass a tool for scribing circles? Not sure how you'd create a heart shape that way.)

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  • Thanks, not sure why I thought it was ungrammatical. "...its curves flawlessly outlined as if drawn with a compass." I was referring to the curves of the heart. Is the wording confusing? – Alexandro Chen Jan 9 '15 at 13:04
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    @AlexandroChen I understood that you meant the curves of the heart, but I'm not a math major; to me compass=circles. If I were going to draw an S-curve, I wouldn't use a compass because I'd have to move the point, which would ruin the smooth line of the curve. If you want to be less confusing, I'd drop "as if drawn with a compass" altogether. It's a bit redundant anyway. You don't have to specify what metaphorical thing has flawlessly outlined the heart cloud. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 9 '15 at 16:05
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I prefer your first -

A cloud drifted lazily in the sky, heart-shaped, its curves flawlessly outlined as if drawn with a compass.

As a personal preference, I'd remove adverbs where unnecessary -

A lazy cloud drifted in the sky, heart-shaped, its curves flawless as if drawn with a compass.

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Exhausted, I continued lying on my back. A cloud drifted lazily in the sky, heart-shaped, its curves flawlessly outlined as if drawn with a compass.

I continued lying on my back, exhausted; a heart-shaped cloud, its curves flawless as though drawn with a compass, drifted lazily across my vision.

It is obvious clouds are in the sky. I think your version is clumsy and does not flow.

Philip Clayton

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