Sunday, September 13, 2009

Unclear Antecedent Sinks Story

Grammar Nazi here.

Got a good chuckle while strolling through Digg a little while ago. I bring you evidence of why you want your antecedents to be clear. Or at least if not clear, as amusing as what I read.

When you're writing a sentence, more precisely a complex sentence, it's good to make sure that as you're piling on the verbiage you're not setting your readers up to wonder what in the world you're talking about.

Take a read at this, taken from a story on a botched development in Dubai in the Independent of Ireland written by James Mclean and Brian Mcdonald:

They were designed to make Dubai the envy of the world: a series of paradise islands inhabited by celebrities and the super-rich reclaimed from the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf and shaped like a map of the Earth. It was called The World.

So, which was reclaimed from the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf: the series of pleasure islands, or the celebrities and the super-rich? So much has been piled into this sentence, it's not clear. So you have an unclear antecedent.

The Grammar Nazi knows about unclear antecedents because the Grammar Nazi is king of making his antecedents unclear. Since I do this a lot and recognize it as a grammar fault, it's easy to pick out in someone else's writing. At least when I see such a thing written by someone else, it hurts a little bit less.

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