Beware of Long Sentences

rogersgeorge on April 12th, 2017

I’m pretty sure the writer of this sentence is a native speaker of English, but he got a word in this sentence wrong.

During the 1950s, one detonation in Kazakhstan resulted in four times the number of cases of acute radiation sickness than those from the Chernobyl disaster.

Can you see the mistake? Yes, the “than” should be “as.” We say “four times as many cases…as,” or “four times more cases…than,” but not “four times the number…than.” I think the goof is because the sentence has so many words interrupting the phrase.

So be careful when you write sentences with lots of consecutive phrases, especially when one is nested inside another.

To make this post a little more visually interesting than it might otherwise have been, here’s a picture from the article.

The abandoned Soviet nuclear weapons testing site near the Kazakh town of Semipalatinsk. A special clinic - under the control of Moscow - was set up to track radiation and its health effects in the area

On the other hand, if you’re a really good writer, and you know what you’re doing, you can get away with a long sentence. Thank you, Jack Keruuac:

They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
— Jack Kerouac

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