Writers, of course, have styles; they use some words and grammatical constructions more than others. That’s why, for example, we can do acomputerized linguistic analysis of some text and demonstrate whether Shakespeare wrote it. Even I have a style! Replica (coming soon to an ebook store near you!) is littered with sentences like this one:
Hunt retreated a step, then attacked again.
In reviewing the Microsoft Word file for Replica with grammar-checking turned on, I noticed that Word took offense at the word then in sentences like this one. I appealed my case to the cold-eyed editors where I work, and they affirmed Word’s judgment: “Then” is an adverb, not a conjunction. Or at best, it’s a conjunctive adverb, or an adverbial conjunction, or some damn thing. At any rate, you can’t use the way I was using it. At best, you can say: “Hunt retreated a step; then, he attacked again.” Which is not the effect I wanted at all.
Here’s what one site says (referring to idiots like me derisively as “students”):
Too many students think that then works the same way [as a regular ol’ conjunction]: “Caesar invaded Gaul, then he turned his attention to England.” You can tell the difference between then and a coordinating conjunction by trying to move the word around in the sentence. We can write “he then turned his attention to England”; “he turned his attention, then, to England”; he turned his attention to England then.” The word can move around within the clause. Try that with a conjunction, and you will quickly see that the conjunction cannot move around. “Caesar invaded Gaul, and then he turned his attention to England.” The word and is stuck exactly there and cannot move like then, which is more like an adverbial conjunction (or conjunctive adverb — see below) than a coordinating conjunction. Our original sentence in this paragraph — “Caesar invaded Gaul, then he turned his attention to England” — is a comma splice, a faulty sentence construction in which a comma tries to hold together two independent clauses all by itself: the comma needs a coordinating conjunction to help out, and the word then simply doesn’t work that way.
Of course, Replica had a mainstream publisher (Bantam) and was professionally edited. Why didn’t someone stop me? I feel betrayed.
Readers of the ebook edition will not have to put up with these atrocities. Microsoft Word has taught me the error of my ways, and I fixed all of these errant sentences. Thanks, Microsoft!