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Is the sentence below awkward?

  1. The kids had scattered their books all over not only the bus but also the sidewalk.

The above is my rewrite. I am trying to rewrite some sentences so that they have parallel structures. The original sentence was:

  1. The kids had not only scattered their books all over the bus but also the sidewalk.

If my new sentence (the first one) is awkward, how can I change it?

  • For myself, the phrase 'not only' seems slightly odd. I would prefer to see, "The kids had scattered their books not only all over the bus but also the sidewalk." But this is mainly a matter of style, I don't think that what you said is grammatically wrong; and I am sure that some people would prefer your sentence to mine. – James Jul 24 '18 at 14:23
  • I think there's a significant difference between having things scattered all over the bus (or all over the house, etc.), and having them scattered all over the pavement. Buses and houses are "containers, containing spaces", whereas sidewalks are effectively just "surfaces", so deleting the repeated element all over creates a semantic clash / disjunct (zeugma, syllepsis). Personally I'd prefer to avoid that with ...scattered their books not only all over the bus but also all over the sidewalk (but we can delete repeated scattered their books because that doesn't create a clash). – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '18 at 14:40
  • ...but I think this is Off Topic "writing advice" anyway. – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '18 at 14:41
  • @FumbleFingers do you mean my tag is off topic, or do you mean this question is not related to this forum? – space Jul 24 '18 at 14:55
  • Oh, I'm sorry, I misread your question as saying the second sentence is the rewrite. The first sentence ("The kids had scattered their books all over not only the bus but also the sidewalk.") is awkward. – userr2684291 Jul 24 '18 at 16:19
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Sorry but your re-write is awkward:

The kids had scattered their books all over not only the bus but also the sidewalk.

It is the placement of "not only" that breaks the sentence up in the wrong place.

The original was perfectly acceptable:

The kids had not only scattered their books all over the bus but also the sidewalk.

It is constructed correctly, but there are usually many ways to construct a sentence and some will sound more natural than others. It all depends on whether you want a written sentence to sound formal or more how someone might say it.

Some alternative ways:

Not only had the kids scattered their books all over the bus, but all over the sidewalk too.

(I think this is most like how it would be spoken)

The kids had scattered their books all over the bus and the sidewalk.

(Less wordy, to the point)

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