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I'm trying to translate the following English into Japanese:

"The only thing more troubling than the silence were the whispers that followed."

What I've come up with is:

沈黙{ちんもく}より悩{なや}ましいのは継{つ}ぐささやきだけだった。

But it feels clunky. Would something like:

沈黙{ちんもく}より悩{なや}ましいのは継{つ}ぐささやきしかなかった。

Be better, or should I change the grammatical structure of the sentence to something else entirely?

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"The only thing more troubling than the silence were the whispers that followed."

​沈黙 {ちんもく} ​より​悩 {なや} ​ましいのは​継 {つ} ​ぐささやきだけだった。

​沈黙 より​悩 ​ましいのは​継 ​ぐささやきしかなかった。

Your grammar is good, period. It is the couple of word choices that would need to be improved -- 「悩ましい」 and 「継ぐ」, especially the latter. (I will be discussing yet another word choice later.)

「継ぐささやき」 simply would not be understood by Japanese-speakers unless they read your English original as well. The verb to be used instead would be 「続{つづ}く」 and it should be used in the form 「それに続く」 with 「それ」 referring to 「沈黙」.

Next, 「悩ましい」.

While I will not call it the wrong word per se, a more natural word choice might be 「煩{わずら}わしい」 at least for us native speakers.

The third word choice that I feel like mentioning is 「ささやき」. While I could not call it incorrect or anything, I would wonder why you would want to use a nice and generally positive word here when it is the thing that is bothering you. I would personally use 「ひそひそ話」, but it would depend on the larger context/situation in which this sentence appears.

Put it all together and one would have:

「沈黙より煩わしいのは、それに続くひそひそ話だけだった。」

  • Thanks. I had no idea ささやき had a positive (as opposed to neutral) connotation to it. Do you know of a resource that can explain these kinds of nuances? – stix Jul 19 at 2:58
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Both sentences are at least "grammatically" correct, but ~しかない sounds like this person wants more troubling things than just a whisper. I suppose that's not what you want to say. In addition, this 継ぐ is too simple and confusing. You should say 沈黙に継ぐ, 後に続いて聞こえてくる, etc.

The only thing more troubling than the silence were the whispers that followed.
沈黙より悩ましいのは続いて聞こえてくるささやきだけだった。

Now, aside from grammar, this sentence still doesn't make much sense to me because a whisper is not usually a bothering thing. Do you really want to say ささやき, not 溜息 ("sigh") or something? If ささやき is the correct choice, you'll need to explain why this ささやき was troubling in another sentence. If you're going to provide the content of ささやき in the next sentence, this だけ seems a little confusing. If that is the case, you can try something like this:

しかし(彼にとって)唯一問題だったのは、沈黙よりもその後に聞こえてきたささやきだったのだ。「~(content of the troubling whisper)~」

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