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Shalom,

John was a lonely boy whose only friends were those with bad habits, debts, or bad temper.

Is the above fine or is there a way to improve it? I want to show that John only has friends in these categories, so basically he's lonely.

thank you so much.

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I'd put the two 'bad's together and keep them all plural.

John was a lonely boy whose only friends had bad habits, bad tempers, or debts.

CJ

Comments  
anonymousShalom

How.

anonymouss the above fine or is there a way to improve it?

When you write, there is almost always a way to improve it. Writing is mainly revision.

A bald statement has power. Repetition has rhythm. Keep lists parallel. Rule one for all writing in "mind the sense" (Lewis Carroll said mind the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves, but that was about tongue-twisters). With that in mind, the antecedent of "those" seems at first reading to be "friends", but that does not make sense. His only friends can't be some among his friends. "Or" forces the reader to do some Boolean algebra, which is unnecessary and distracting.

John was a lonely boy. His few friends had bad habits, bad debts and bad tempers.

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.