Paragraph with Some Goofs

rogersgeorge on January 20th, 2017

Here’s a paragraph with enough less-than-good writing in it that it’s worth pointing out the mistakes. It’s from Motherboard, a pretty good source of interesting articles. The title is Fish are having a Real Hard Time in Space

To better understand these biological effects of “microgravitational stress,” there are two varieties of cell that need to be observed: osteoclasts and osteoblasts. The prior are responsible for breaking down bone tissue, a key role in repairing and maintaining bones, while the latter secrete the matrix used in bone formation.

First, let’s look at the title. You don’t need “Real.” Read the title without “Real.” It’s more concise, has a little more punch. The writer probably wants to project an informal tone, which is okay, but the best expository writing doesn’t call attention to itself; you just think about the content.  Next item, and maybe this is a nitpick, but the title should say “These Fish…” since the article is about some specific individual fish, not fish in general. Slightly more accurate, I say.

The first sentence in the paragraph has “there is.” Try to avoid “there is” and “there” with any other form of “to be.” This construction is called a false subject. Writing without false subjects is harder, but think of something else to say. You’ll produce a better sentence. For example you could replace the false subject with “…you need to know about…” or better, take out both the false subject and the relative conjunction so you have “…two varieties of cell need to be observed:.”

Move on to the next sentence. “Prior” is a hobby horse of mine. It means “to have priority, to be first in rank.” Use something like “first” instead, although in this sentence the correct word is “former” because later on he uses “latter,” which is correct, by the way. “Latter” means “the second of two.” By the way, why not repeat the word as the subject? That gives the reader a second exposure to this unfamiliar word, increasing learning. You would have “Osteoclasts are responsible for…”

Finally, in the last line of the paragraph you see the word “while.” “While means “at the same time as.” The simplest solution to this bit of excessive informality is to make two sentences. Put a period after “bones” and capitalize “the” or write “Osteoblasts secrete…”

Okay, enough curmudgeonliness for now. The article is still interesting and informative. Give it a read.

Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed

A Pair of Almost-Synonyms

rogersgeorge on January 18th, 2017

Darren Bell posts the occasional Candorville strip of the main character, Lemont, (who is a writer) correcting someone’s grammar. I have long held the opinion about the difference between “continual” and “continuous” expressed in this comic. It’s nice to see my opinion confirmed.

Continue Reading...

Two Kinds of Puns

rogersgeorge on January 16th, 2017

Several people have been credited with saying that puns are the lowest form of humor, but I suspect that’s because they couldn’t think of any themselves. Anyway, exact homonyms, words spelled differently but pronounced the same, are the fodder for the good kind of pun; slightly mispronounced words make the other kind of pun. Here’s […]

Continue Reading...

Remember Diagramming Sentences?

rogersgeorge on January 14th, 2017

I’m still in lazy mode; another easy one for me. See if you can correct Yoda’s diagram for him.

Continue Reading...

Another Grammar Comic

rogersgeorge on January 12th, 2017

I’m being lazy this year (so far). Posting comics is pretty easy. This one’s an Argyle Sweater from early January 2017. You do know about dangling participles, right? …I don’t think I have a post on the subject! I’ll have to fix that.

Continue Reading...