I want to describe a young man sitting astride on a chair, leaning his forearms on the top of the back. I am aware that I am focusing too much on the mechanics of the posture, and I will deal with the emotions and intent after. It's frustrating because I think there's a simple way of describing what I want, and I can't put my finger on it.

Looking forward to any suggestion that can get me out of this rut!

  • 2
    I came up with this: "He straddled the chair, resting his arms on the backrest." Any thoughts?
    – Egan Solo
    Commented Mar 26 at 1:23
  • Welcome to Writing.SE, Egan. Unfortunately asking us to help you write or rephrase that passage or give you feedback on your writing is off topic on this site. Here is an answer I wrote to a very similar question that explains how you might find an expression that you are happy with: writing.stackexchange.com/a/69143/60280 Maybe it can be helpful to you.
    – Ben
    Commented Mar 26 at 7:58
  • Thank you, Ben, for the clarifying comment. If my question came across as if I was looking for someone to help me write my story, then I apologize. That was not my intent. I assumed that this group would accept clarifying questions. If that's not the case, then I'm happy to delete my question.
    – Egan Solo
    Commented Mar 27 at 6:12

2 Answers 2


The exact wording that fits will depend on the context of the scene. Do we know already of the character's habit to sit on chairs this way? Does the word choice match the style in which the story is written? And how's the pacing of the text, isn't the description slowing it down, on conversely, a little too rushed?

Generally speaking, I see nothing wrong with, "He was sitting astride on his chair, leaning his forearms on the top of the back." If you don't think it works well, think about what about the description it is that's making it sound off. (It might also be the case that this particular sentence is fine, but the one leading to it or the one following it could do with rephrasing.)

If you think it's missing a clue to the character's emotions, well, include it then! "He was sitting astride on his chair, tense and upright, his forearms hugging the chair's back and fingers clutching on its edge." Or: "He was sitting astride on his chair, slouched over its back, resting his forehead on top of folded arms." Or: "He was sitting astride on his chair, leaning his forearms on the top of the back, his gaze focused at nothing in particular and a foot absent-mindedly tapping on the floor." People's feelings affect their posture, so if you want to give us a hint, tell us about that.

  • 1
    Please don't answer off-topic questions! Your answer encourages more of these questions. The reason why help rephrasing sentences, giving feedback, and us writing passages for the askers is off topic is that those questions and answers aren't useful for anybody else.
    – Ben
    Commented Mar 26 at 12:14
  • 1
    @Ben I very much disagree with the claim that this question isn't useful for anyone else (as would, I assume, the two people who upvoted it). It serves as a good illustrative example, which are in my experience much more helpful for learning than abstract generalised discussions. Your personal learning style may vary.
    – Divizna
    Commented Mar 26 at 13:51
  • Interestingly enough that is the same argument that I once made, but the community consensus is that these kinds of questions are not considered useful for others. See here: writing.meta.stackexchange.com/a/717/60280 You may have a different opinion, but those are the current site rules, and I'd ask you to bring this up on Meta before you subvert what the community has agreed upon.
    – Ben
    Commented Mar 26 at 15:13
  • Dear Divizna, Thank you so much for your detailed and informative answer. I truly appreciate the time and effort you put into it. That was wonderful. It would seem that I may be asking the wrong questions in this group. If so, could someone please point me to a code of conduct? Thanks!
    – Egan Solo
    Commented Mar 27 at 6:18
  • If you scroll right down to the bottom of the page, you will see a list on the extreme left which includes a link for "Help". Commented Mar 28 at 9:33

Why not, "The young man sat astride a chair, leaning his forearms on the top of the back"? What's wrong with the wording you already gave that you are looking for an alternative?

  • Dear Jay, Thank you for your comment. I should have explained what was bothering me. When writing, I pay attention to what I call, for lack of better words, the musicality of the sentence. I like sentences that "flow". I recognize that this is subjective assessment, but somehow the bit "on the top of the back," sounded ... off? Perhaps heavy might be a better way of describing the sentence's effect on me. Thank you for your comment. It made me think.
    – Egan Solo
    Commented Mar 27 at 6:16
  • @EganSolo Of course "sounds awkward" can be very subjective. But if you don't like "top of the back", you could just say, "his arms resting on the back of the chair". Readers would assume you mean the top of the back. I suppose it would be possible for there to be holes or gaps in the back of the chair big enough for someone to put his arms through and rest them there, but such an image is not what would normally come to a reader's mind.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 27 at 16:18

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