Ask Me a Question

If you have a writing, grammar, style or punctuation question, send an e-mail message to curiouscase at sign hotmail dot com.

Add Your Own Criminal Sentence!

If you find a particularly terrible sentence somewhere, post it for all to see (go here and put it in the Comments section).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Criminal Sentence 659: Don't Pin People on Your Corkboard!

A sentence from something I'm editing:

"... a large corkboard with notes from clients pinned to it."

I had to chuckle at this, as I imagined some poor clients pinned to his corkboard. The phrase "pinned to it" goes with "notes," not "clients."

Let's unpin them:

"... a large corkboard on which I've pinned notes from clients."

That's a little more formal sounding but a lot less painful for those clients (and for picky editors).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Criminal Sentence 658: The Effects of Bad Spelling

From an article about medicines used to combat stress:

"Unfortunately the side-affects of these drugs are often dangerous ..."

The "side-affects" spelling/unneeded hyphen caused me a teeny blip of stress! (It should be "side effects," with an "e" and no hyphen!)

To keep my cortisol level normal, I shall now meditate, do yoga, go to the gym or discuss the problem with a loved one. I will not sublimate the problem!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Criminal Sentence 657: Ambiguous "While"

This problem sentence is from the sports section of today's newspaper. Background: the two men's semifinals of the U.S. open were played yesterday. First was Djokovic vs. Wawrinka, and then came Nadal vs. Gasquet. Djokovic (a Serb) won a tough, marathon match, whereas Nadal won fairly easily.

So here is the sentence I am complaining about:

"While the Serb labored, Nadal swept past Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2."

When I first read this sentence, I thought, "Hey, these matches were consecutive, not concurrent!" I had read the word "while" to mean "at the same time as" rather than "although."

Some publishers for whom I edit have a rule that I must change every "while" to "although" (unless the meaning is "at the same time as") and every "since" to "because" (unless "since" is used in a time sense). I oblige them because it is possible to misread the meanings of these words, as happened with the tennis sentence. If we change "while" to "although" here, the sentence no longer is ambiguous:

"Although the Serb labored, Nadal swept past Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2."