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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Criminal Sentence 200: Prepositions Suck

From today's paper (an article about an 80s band):

"The group split in 1989 due to a dispute over royalties that lasted for most of the 90s."

Prepositional phrases always get in the way. Here, "over royalties" comes between "dispute" and the "that" clause, causing a classic misplaced modifier. The royalties didn't last for most of the 90s; the dispute did. Just reword: "due to a royalty dispute that lasted..."

If you see a prepositional phrase and then a "that" or "who" clause, get ready to rewrite. For those of you who haven't read Chapter 5 of my book, please do so now and start spreading the word!!

2 comments:

Aspiring Writer said...

I was always under the impression that "due to" always follows "to be": The dispute was due to an error in fund allocation.

Shouldn't the criminal sentence read, "The group split in 1989 because of a royalty dispute that lasted for most of the '90s"? And shouldn't there be an apostrophe because '90s is short for 1990s? (At least they didn't write "90's"!)

The Sentence Sleuth said...

You're right that traditionally "due to" should follow the verb "to be," but "because of" is becoming more accepted.
As for the apostrophe, that's just a style. Either way is okay.