On Making Subjective GP Changes


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Guide to GP Subjective Changes
Approved by Jellicent. Written by Ender.
Hello C&C! After looking over many, many amchecks, I've found that a lot of aspiring GP checkers are having trouble with subjective changes. Because of this, I've decided to write a guide to dealing with subjective changes and how to make these changes appropriately.
Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. What Are Subjective Changes?
  3. Approaching Subjective Changes
  4. Examples: What to Do and What Not to Do
  5. Final Thoughts and Moving Forward
  6. Contributors and Version History
I. Introduction

Writing is both a science and an art. It is a science because it follows well-defined rules that govern how language should properly convey a thought. Grammar and syntax have a highly-developed array of standardizations that make it possible for people to understand each other through written communication. It is because of this that sentences have meaning for both the writer and the reader. However, writing is also an art because there exists a unique element of personalization in every writer's particular style that sets it apart from the writing of anyone else. It is this amorphous but instrumental characteristic that we will explore in this guide. This is where the "Prose" in Grammar-Prose comes in. I have compiled this guide from the advice I have given to aspiring GP members after looking over their checks and advice that I keep in mind every time I do a check. Hopefully by the end of this guide, subjective changes will be a less mysterious but still alluring component of GP checking for anyone who takes the time to read this. However, even though the advice I provide here should start you on the right track, remember that there is truly no substitute for experience, and only with practice will you be able to hone your skills to the point where making (or not making) subjective changes becomes just as easy, if not as mechanical, as making objective ones.

II. What are Subjective Changes?

Subjective changes are found in a plethora of different forms. However, they are all distinguishable from objective changes by the fact that there exists no particular or explicit rule for deciding whether the writing is improved by the change or not. It is up to the user's judgment to determine the utility of the change, and different people may have different opinions as to whether or not a change is warranted or makes an improvement. In contrast, objective changes are not up to debate. They abide by strict rules and opinions are irrelevant to their implementation.

What is the goal of making subjective changes? The most basic aim is to make the writing sound better. Often times, writing will be 100% grammatically correct, but it sounds awkward to read and perhaps causes the reader to pause or have to read the sentence again. This is what we want to try and avoid. Examine the following sentence:

Garchomp is a powerful sweeper, and it is also the most unique threat in OU.

Grammatically, this is perfectly okay, but did you notice that something sounds off about it? Perhaps you stumbled slightly when you were reading? We could make this sentence easier to read by changing it to the following:

Garchomp is a powerful sweeper and the most unique threat in OU.

Just by altering the structure a little bit, we made this sentence much more pleasant to read. Again, both this sentence and its predecessor are grammatically correct, but the difference between the two is as clear as night and day.

What falls under subjective changes? Although this isn't a clearly defined group, almost all subjective changes can be distilled to changes that affect the categories in the following list:
  1. Tone
  2. Diction
  3. Sentence structure
People often throw around terms like "flow", "voice", and "readability" when talking about subjective changes, but if we look at our list, we see that each of these can be broken down into the exact same components. In other words, these are essentially synonyms for some of the subjective elements of writing rather than components themselves. This will be demonstrated shortly.

In order to be effective, we will define each of the above categories so that we can quickly recognize when making an edit changes one of them.

Tone: Tone is the avenue by which the author's attitude towards a subject comes out in writing. Tone is most often conveyed by how the author uses adjectives to describe topics, as well as by how the author links ideas together. The easiest way to visualize this is to look at any "Other Options" section in an analysis. You will often find thoughts such as, "Breloom can use Giga Drain to heal itself while doing damage, but its other STAB moves are generally more effective." Here, we see that the author is hesitant to recommend Giga Drain to someone who wants to use Breloom - this is most effectively conveyed by the use of the conjunction "but", suggesting that while there may be merit to the move, it's not something the author wholeheartedly endorses.

Diction: Diction, in its essence, is word choice. Words, especially modifiers, can have a major impact on how a reader perceives a topic. Diction is actually linked to tone, as it can often dictate tone by itself, but it is different enough that it warrants its own category. Many times, synonyms will convey different messages even though they technically mean the same thing. For example, compare the following sentences: "Blissey is a strong special wall" and "Blissey is a robust special wall". In the first sentence, we are to understand that Blissey is "strong", but we are not sure in what way it is strong. Can it defeat other Pokemon easily? Is it tough to bring down? Can it bench a Groudon? The author's intended meaning is not entirely clear. However, in the second sentence, the word "robust" is used instead, thus elucidating the true meaning of the modifier. The author is trying to tell us that Blissey is sturdy and can stand up to powerful attacks. Because of this change, the reader is more easily able to grasp the author's true message. In this particular case, the issue is one of specificity and scope, but this is certainly not inclusive of all changes involving diction.

Sentence Structure: Sentence structure refers to the order of words or parts of speech within a sentence. It is perhaps the most mechanical of the three categories, but there is undeniably an element of subjectivity to its function. There are some suggested rules that writers follow regarding sentence structure and there are some constructs that are objectively wrong, but oftentimes, the exact structure is left up to the writer. Sometimes it's as simple as where to place an adverb, while other times subject and verb placement are called into question. As an editor, you must determine whether or not the author's sentence structure is conducive to flow and whether or not it warrants modification.

III. Approaching Subjective Changes

There is a very particular mindset that a conscientious GP checker must be in when looking to make subjective changes. This begins with one particularly critical MO:

The personalized elements of the author's style must be preserved as much as possible without sacrificing quality.

This is by far the most important rule to follow when making subjective changes. Many of you are wonderful writers yourselves and have very lucid and elegant writing styles. However, you have to remember that when you are acting as a GP checker, you are checking someone else's work, not your own. You cannot interject elements of your own style in such a way that your personality supplants the author's. However, there are certainly times when you have to make changes to make it easier for the reader to understand the article or analysis (otherwise we wouldn't have to worry about subjective changes). In these cases, there are some guidelines you can follow in order to preserve as much of the author's style as possible without inadvertently interjecting your own.

1. Don't Mess with Tone: If your changes alter the author's tone, chances are you shouldn't be making that change. Tone is something that remains fairly consistent throughout an analysis or article, and is something that is highly personalized in writing such as Smog articles. You want the author's attitude or opinion towards something to remain steadfastly unchanged through your edits, so if you re-read your work and find that the author is now implying something different than they used to, you need to think very carefully about the validity of your changes. Remember, tone is controlled by both diction and sentence structure, so go back to your individual changes and see if you can determine which changes (or combination thereof) affected tone.

2. Change Diction or Sentence Structure, But Not Both: In virtually every scenario, a shaky sentence can be improved by changing either diction or sentence structure and leaving the other one alone. By leaving one or the other intact, you preserve as much of the author's original style as possible. Elements of style are represented primarily by these two aspects, so if you keep one the same, the author's voice will still come out, at least to some extent.

3. Don't Make Unnecessary Changes: Many times, amcheckers will try and fix something that does not need to be fixed, resulting in unnecessary loss of the author's voice. This is a very easy trap to fall into, especially as an amateur checker who wants to be noticed. However, I promise you that unnecessary changes are very easy to spot for an experience GP checker who might be looking over your amcheck. The easiest way to avoid this pitfall is to ask yourself if something sounds okay. If you read it and it sounds alright, chances are that it is. It's almost always better to make fewer changes and leave a questionable bit of prose intact than it is to make more changes and risk reducing the presence of the author's style unnecessarily.

4. Get a Second Opinion: In the GP world, it's never shameful to ask for someone else's opinion - in fact, it's encouraged! Remember that because these changes are subjective, they are viewed differently by different people. If you're unsure of whether or not a change you want to make is too much, get a fresh pair of eyes to look at it. This is one of the simplest ways to see if your changes are necessary or superfluous, and is a great safeguard against unwarranted alterations. Always feel free to pop on #grammar and ask there!

IV. Examples: What to Do and What Not to Do

These are some of the most common examples of subjective changes that I've seen. Obviously this list isn't exhaustive, but is more of compass to help you distinguish between good and bad subjective changes.

1. The "Lateral Change"

Original: Gardevoir goes nicely with Psyduck on stall teams in DPP Ubers.

Edited: Gardevoir pairs well with Psyduck on stall teams in DPP Ubers.​

Here we have an example of what I like to call a "lateral change", which is a change that does not make the sentence better or worse, merely different. It could be argued that either the top or the bottom is "better", but there's no clear cut winner. This is a change in diction, but it offers no real advantage to the reader over the original. Remember, when in doubt, the author always wins. Verdict: Keep the original

2. Relocated transitions

Original: Abra, however, is not nearly as powerful as its fully-evolved cousin, Alakazam.

Edited: However, Abra is not nearly as powerful as its fully-evolved cousin, Alakazam.​

Many checkers like to move words like "however" or "though" around to suit their preference. I have seen changes like this go both ways (either original to edited or edited to original in this case). Neither is really "better", which means this should generally be left up to the author. However, there are some cases where some change is warranted, the most common of which is when the author uses "however" 500 times in a single paragraph. In this case, the most appropriate move would be to either change diction (make some "however"s into "although"s or something similar) or, if appropriate, to merge all of the "however" clauses into a single group. Verdict: Change only if absolutely necessary when considering context

3. Combining Sentences

Original: Geodude, thanks to Sturdy, can survive any attack with ease. This, combined with its resistances to common Flying- and Normal-type attacks, makes it a powerful tank.

Edited: Thanks to Sturdy and resistances to common Flying- and Normal-type attacks, Geodude makes a powerful tank that can survive any attack with ease.

Writers often leave related sentences disjointed when writing rough drafts of their works, but this either makes it difficult for the reader to follow their train of thought or makes the writing unnecessarily long. This can often be fixed by amalgamating ideas to convey a single, uninterrupted thought. Notice that in this case, we are only changing sentence structure, and we left diction entirely untouched. This is an example of a change that keeps as much of the author's style and voice as possible while improving readability. In essence, a win-win. Verdict: The edited version is a clear improvement

V. Final Thoughts and Moving Forward

Again, what I've covered here does not nearly cover every situation you'll encounter where you have to make a decision about a subjection change, but hopefully you can construct a paradigm for handling them more effectively after looking at these. Remember that the author's style takes precedence over your own, and you should be judicious when making changes that could potentially alter the author's original voice.

Where do you go from here? Go out and practice! Practice is by far the most effective way to hone your subjective change judgment abilities. Every successful GP checker has to know how to appropriately handle subjective changes, so the more you use your skills, the sharper and more useful they will become.

Thank you for taking the time to read this guide. I am always open to feedback and additions, so please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments! As always, I am of course available via IRC, PM, or VM if anyone has any questions about anything involving GP.

VI. Contributors and Version History

Written and maintained by Ender.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Jellicent for his support and sage advice.

Version 1.00 (Initial release)

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