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Author Topic: Dealing with annoying English grammar errors (19th in a series of 20)  (Read 66 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: January 09, 2018, 12:40:23 AM »


This is the 19th in a series of 20 essays on what I consider as the 10 most annoying English grammar errors. It is running consecutively here in the Forum from November 7, 2017 every Tuesday and Friday until January 12, 2018.

Exercise in defusing a terribly fused sentence


In the previous part of this series, I made this challenge to readers: come up with a better construction for this bewildering fused sentence from a leading newspaper in 2011:

“The Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements seen to herald a new era of relations between the two countries during the meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) which opens in Manila today.”

Such fused sentences can be so confusing because they combine so many ideas without using the appropriate conjunctions or punctuation to clarify their logical relationship. In this particular case, we can see that the writer simply cobbled these four independent clauses into that single breathlessly long sentence:

(1) “The Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements.”
(2) “These agreements are seen to herald a new er in relations between the two countries.”
(3) “The signing of the bilateral agreements will be done during the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).”
(4) “That meeting opens in Manila today.”

To untangle that fused sentence and make it less word-heavy, I found it necessary to break it down into two sentences. Then, to clarify the logical relationships between its four key ideas, I decided to combine the first and second clauses into a single complex sentence linked by the subordinating conjunction “that,” and did exactly the same thing to the tird and fourth clauses. The result:

“The Philippines and North Korea are scheduled today to sign bilateral agreements that are expected to herald a new era in the relations between the two countries. They will sign the agreements during the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean)” that meeting opens in Manila also today.”

I actually thought that this was the best that could be possibly done with that fused sentence, but I was glad to be proven wrong when a U.S.-based reader of my Manila Times column, Rocky Avila, sent me the following construction:

“During the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) that opens in Manila today, the Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements that are seen to herald a new era in the relations between the two countries.”

That, I’m sure you’ll agree, is much more efficient and more elegant construction than mine. The beauty of Rocky’s construction is that although it retains the single-sentence framework, it manages to effortlessly establish the logical relationships between all four independent clauses.

How did he do it? He first formed a main clause, “the Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements that are seen to herald a new era in the relations between the two countries,” then formed another clause that’s subordinate to it, “during the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) that opens in Manila today.” Then he repositioned that subordinate clause up front to modify the main clause, producing this remarkably clear, forthright, and easy-to-read sentence:

“During the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) that opens in Manila today, the Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements that are seen to herald a new era in the relations between the two countries.”

This essay, 19th in a series of 20, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the December 1, 2007 issue of The Manila Times. It subsequently formed part of the book The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors, ©2008 by the author, © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

(Next: Summing up of the 10 most annoying grammar errors)    January 12, 2018
« Last Edit: January 09, 2018, 12:58:05 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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