5

I find myself writing "Then, ..." a lot. Example:

As soon as she found my letter---or rather, Kiyoshi's---she widened her slitted eyes and pressed the letter against her chest. Then, as though she were handling a delicate glass sculpture, she opened the envelope.


Mr. HSC squinted his slanted eyes at me. Then, setting down his chef hat on the counter, he said, “Look my shift’s over. How ‘bout we go to the izakaya around the corner?


I answered her smile with my own. Then, receiving her apple, I asked her, "So > what now?"

How can I replace those thens? (For some reason, I feel that the sentences sound weird without them. Maybe I'm wrong?)

4
  • 1
    It seems to me that you can do without the 'then's completely in the examples you give. – storbror Jun 16 '17 at 9:55
  • @storbror So, the fact that they sound weird is just misconception created by my brain? – alex Jun 16 '17 at 10:02
  • 2
    I think it adds dramatic effect, and if you use it a lot, that effect will be lost and potentially replaced with a minor annoyance. In the sentences you write, it seems logical that the second sentence happens "then", so in my oppinion, you don't need it at all. – storbror Jun 16 '17 at 10:30
  • Weird is good. It gives your writing character. – Kramii Jun 19 '17 at 6:21
2

Use the active voice in your sentences and replace the adverbial interjections with metaphor or simile.

Use "then" at the end of long sequences of actions to signify their final step/completion or as the transition/introduction to another set of actions with a different purpose or by another character, hopefully.

Then, as though she were handling a delicate glass sculpture, she opened the envelope. She opened the envelope, careful to handle it as though it were a delicate glass sculpture.

Then, setting down his chef hat on the counter, he said, “Look my shift’s over. How ‘bout we go to the izakaya around the corner?

He set down his chef hat and let out a long sigh. "Look..."

Then, receiving her apple, I asked her, "So > what now?"

I took the offered apple with one hand. "So what now?" I asked during the natural pause created by the gifting.

As you can see, you'll need to incorporate words that indicate simultaneous action. That and various sentence complexity combos.

4
  • 1
    Could you provide some examples? – alex Jun 16 '17 at 10:17
  • @alex See revised post – user26439 Jun 16 '17 at 11:01
  • No problem. Check out left vs right branching sentences. Mastering left branching sentences will definitely help to combat monotony in pacing at the sentence and paragraph level. – user26439 Jun 16 '17 at 12:13
  • All of the example sentences in the question already use the active voice. Are you sure this is what you meant? – psmears Jun 16 '17 at 14:57
2

Just drop 'em.

...she... pressed the letter against her chest. As though she were handling a delicate glass sculpture, she opened the envelope.

Mr. HSC squinted his slanted eyes at me. Setting down his chef hat on the counter, he said...

I answered her smile with my own. Receiving her apple, I asked her, "So, what now?"

(Example 3 sounds better with a "then," though.)

1

"Then" is not really required in the examples you show. "Then" is only really required when the previous sentence or clause indicates further actions or items.

"First, the Earth cooled, then the dinosaurs came."

I also suspect you are looking at sentences to tell your story rather than complete paragraphs. Your examples can easily be re-written to avoid "then".

"After setting down his chef hat on the counter Mr. HSC squinted his slanted eyes at me. “Look my shift’s over, he said. "How ‘bout we go to the izakaya around the corner?""

"As soon as she found my letter---or rather, Kiyoshi's---she widened her slitted eyes and pressed the letter against her chest. She opened the envelope as though handling a delicate glass sculpture."

1

As the other answers have noted, you can rewrite the sentences to remove the need for "then" (or possibly just omit it without any rewriting at all). However, there are also a few synonyms you can use, allowing you to keep the sense of narrative flow you're after without the frequent repetition of "then".

As soon as she found my letter---or rather, Kiyoshi's---she widened her slitted eyes and pressed the letter against her chest. A moment later, as though she were handling a delicate glass sculpture, she opened the envelope.


Mr. HSC squinted his slanted eyes at me before setting down his chef hat on the counter. “Look, my shift’s over," he said. "How ‘bout we go to the izakaya around the corner?


I answered her smile with my own. As I received her apple, I asked her, "So, what now?"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.