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Monday, February 8, 2010

Poll Results 73

This was the question:

How many errors are in this sentence? "Walking down the street, a car stopped with two ladies and he got in."

6 (6%)
12 (12%)
32 (33%)
45 (47%)

It seems that 47% of you feel there are three errors. I myself feel there are two, so I would like to hear what additional error you see. Here are the errors I see:

1) "Walking down the street, a car": A car is obviously not walking down the street. The "he" of the sentence is.
2) "a car stopped with two ladies": This sounds weird. "A car containing two ladies stopped" would be better, don't you think?

I suspect some of you might think a comma is required before "and." It might be a good idea to include a comma, but it isn't wrong to omit one. So what did I miss on my own test?


Westley said...

You're right in suspecting a comma before the 'and'. Whenever I combine independent clauses with a co-ordinating conjunction, I always use a comma. I've been told (and have seen in print, for what that's worth) that short clauses do not need the comma, but I prefer to use the comma just to make certain the readers don’t blur through the break.

An example: “A car stopped with two ladies and a man…walked past.” Without the comma, the man could have been in the car with the two ladies…that is until we find the next verb. It can be rather disconcerting, so I use both belt and suspenders. :-)

The Sentence Sleuth said...

I agree that a comma can help avoid ambiguity and confusion, and your example is a good one, although I wouldn't put the word "stopped" there. I would say, "A car with two ladies stopped, and a man walked past."

jrprwoman said...

I would opine that one could make a general argument for the third mistake being overall sentence structure. However, I agree that technically, there are only two.

The sentence, in general, is poor form. I would revise it to read:

"As a man walked down the street, two ladies in a car stopped and the man got in the car."
"After two ladies in a car stopped, a man walking down the street, got in their car."

Regardless, the test question is tought provoking. Thanks for keeping our grammatical minds in motion.