In which I criticize my own writng

rogersgeorge on October 31st, 2011

This post fits into the category “the hard part of writing.”

Perhaps the most important rule in good writing is to proofread your work. I wrote an article about proofreading a while back, but almost nobody reads it. I think the title isn’t catchy enough. Anyway, I re-read my previous post, and I found something to fix.

Here’s the passage that needs work:

I think maybe, perhaps, the use of “born” instead of “hatched” fits rather well, even in an article that later gives the scientific name of antibiotic-resistant fecal bacteria, especially if you read the entire article.

Think about that last clause, starting with “especially. ” It doesn’t quite fit. The sentence says that the article gives that scientific name especially if you read the entire article. That’s nonsense. The meaning I intended is that you can tell that “born” instead of “hatched” fits rather well if you read etc. So we should move that “especially…” clause closer to the front of the sentence, perhaps after “rather well.” But if you do that, the reference to the scientific name is too far away. I caused the problem by going for a chatty effect (by using “maybe, perhaps) and leaving out the important phrase, “you can tell” after “I think.”

Fecal bacteria are boring little rod shapes. I figured this picture would gross you out more—after all, today is Halloween.

I see two respectable ways to fix this bad sentence.

  • Put in “you can tell” and put the “especially…” clause after “tell.”
  • Make two sentences: “Read the entire article. I think maybe, perhaps, etc.”
  • Leave off that final clause altogether. You probably went and read the entire article already anyway.

(Oops, that’s three. Don’t say I never gave you nuthin.’)

What do you think? Maybe you have a fourth rewrite. Post a comment.

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