Think about what you write

rogersgeorge on December 22nd, 2013

Sometimes you can cast a perfectly grammatical sentence that is still wrong. I call this the hard part of writing.

Here’s an example of a bad sentence I just got from The New York Times, on their Personal Tech page, in an article about speakers. The culprit is the second sentence.

The options with fuller sound ā€” the kind Iā€™m looking for ā€” need to be plugged into the wall. Still, they do not need wires to connect to the source of the music, creating a permanent state of cord spaghetti.

Are you instantly sure what the writer is saying? You had to switch gears when you read about creating a tangle right after reading about not needing wires. Part of the problem is that it’s so far from the negative statement (they do not need) to the result (spaghetti). That big long clause between (wires to connect…music) happens to be a non-existent condition. The writer matched the non-existent part with the result. This sentence should have matched the negativity or lack of it in the beginning and end of the sentence. Here are two somewhat better ways to write it. I like the second one more, because now all three parts are positive.

Still, they do not need wires to connect to the source of the music, which helps prevent a permanent state of cord spaghetti.

Still, if they had wires connected to the source of the music, it would create a permanent state of cord spaghetti.

Now you don’t get that jolt from having to figure out what he meant. I’m surprised the editor didn’t catch it.

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