syntax, syntax, syntax

horseThe three sentences below illustrate why careful use of syntax (word order) matters.

This first example states that a fawn licked the author’s face all summer long:

I had been observing the fawn who had licked my face throughout the summer.

Actually, the fawn licked the author’s face just once that summer. This is the author’s intended meaning:

Throughout the summer, I had been observing the fawn who had licked my face.

In the next example, trucks and cars weep as they speed by:

I stood by the roadside as trucks and cars sped by and wept.

This is absurd, and of course the writer meant to say this:

I stood by the roadside and wept as trucks and cars sped by. OR,

As trucks and cars sped by, I stood by the roadside and wept.

The literal meaning of the third and last example is that the author was careful to keep his cigarettes off of both gum wrappers and the trail:

I didn’t drop cigarettes on the trail or gum wrappers.

With a corrected syntax, the true meaning is clear:

I didn’t drop cigarettes or gum wrappers on the trail.

 

In your own reading and listening, have you noticed some of the strange and often comical results of awkward syntax?

Cheers,

Tara Treasurefield
Treasurefield Communications

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About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
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