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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Criminal Sentence 262: Naughty Medicare representative

A simplified version of a real sentence from a book I read:

"He discussed his belief that unnecessary procedures were being done at the hospital with a Medicare representative in Stockton, CA."

This sentence is not grammatical because it is trying to squeeze in too much information. There are simply too many prepositional phrases: "at the hospital," "with a Medicare representative" and "in Stockton, CA." The sentence makes it sound as if the Medicare representative was participating in the unnecessary procedures.

Common sense tells me that the "He" of this sentence discussed something with a Medicare representative and that they were in Stockton at the time.Let's try to have the sentence state that:

"He was in Stockton, CA, when he told a Medicare representative that he felt unnecessary procedures were being done at the hospital."

Not the most perfect sentence but a vast improvement over the original.


Anonymous said...

This sentence can be fixed a lot more easily than you propose. All it needs is a paren in front of "that" and a close paren after "hospital". The ambiguity is resolved with minimal disruption to the structure and flow of the original.

I should mention that I have attempted to publish tis comment using my Google account. Although I have carefully checked the spelling of my ID and password, the system is not recognizing them.

I can be reached as scrocker1946

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Yep, parens around "that ... hospital" would work. As far as the technical error on Google, sorry but I can't help you. I know nothing!