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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Criminal Sentence 432: I Un-Like This

From today's newspaper:

"Unlike California, there is no time limit in Arizona."

Be careful with sentences that start with a comparison word such as "like" and "unlike." You have to be sure you're comparing the right things. This sentence compares "California" and "there," not what the journalist had in mind.

All you have to do is add a little "in":

"Unlike in California, there is no time limit in Arizona."


ChildsPlay said...

Maybe there is no time limit in Arizona to unlike California. :)

David said...

I think it might work better if you said, "Unlike California, Arizona has no time limit," but, on second thought, that could be misconstrued as a city named California in Arizona. So, how about this: "Unlike California, the state of Arizona has no time limit"? I think the problems is not necessarily a comparison problem, but rather an issue of dangling similar to that of a participle. "Unlike California" modifies Arizona, so Arizona has to be the subject of the sentence.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

It's a question of parallelism.
You need an "in" with CA if you have an "in" with AZ. Or delete the "in."

David said...

Checkout Garner under Illogical Comparisons part b. He refers to the use of "like" in a similar case as dangling. The Gregg Reference Manual also calls it a dangling prepositional phrase.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Love Garner! Thanks!

David said...

Arnold Zwicky has a piece on "unlike" and its unique qualities, outside of its function as a preposition. His examination of "unlike" is a little bit more involved than I like to get, but you may want to take a look at that. You can find it at his blog site under "Danglers."