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Subtle and precise

May 22, 2015

A politely inquisitive look remained on her face.

A lesser writer might have written: Her face showed she was questioning what was just said.

Or perhaps: An inquisitive look crossed her face.

The first example for all it’s wordiness is vague, not nearly as precise as the original version. The second example is almost a cliché (crossed her face), which we’ve all read a thousand times: an angry look crossed her face; a look of fear crossed her face.

In the original, inquisitive is modified by politely, softening it (as opposed to say, A rudely inquisitive look …), while the choice of remained adds freshness and suggests a time element crossed does not.

In all, this one sentence, buried among thousands of others in The Accidental Tourist, is one more remarkable example of how subtle and precise Anne Tyler is as a writer. Just thought I’d share.

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