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chromatic (983)

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Journal of chromatic (983)

Saturday November 12, 2005
08:17 PM

Or Possibly a Helicopter

[ #27554 ]

Being an editor, I find bad writing painful (except for leading dangling participles). Don't get me started on most technical writing. (If you've written for me, you likely know at least two of my pet peeves, though I try to be gentle about explaining them.)

If there's anything worse than technical writing -- and I'm leaving out weblogs here -- it's most newspapers. My mother sent me a story this afternoon about a an accident where a crane fell off of a bridge near my hometown. It amuses me greatly to read:

Another crane will likely be used to remove the debris, or possibly a helicopter...

I vote to remove the debris -- not the helicopter. (Unfair quoting? Not really -- the rest of the sentence is worse.)

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  • I emailed the author of the article and asked him if the other crane was removing the debris or if the other crane was removing the helicopter. : )
  • Given the context, there is no ambiguity. It seems very easy to *speak* a sentence like this. "A crane will be used to remove the debris". Oh, hang on, they might use a helicopter: "... or possibly a helicopter". I guess this does have the effect of making the sentence overly informal.


    • It might be easy to *speak* that but it is not correct sentence structure even in the context.

      It should have read:

      "Another crane or possibly a helicopter will likely be used to remove the debris."
  • It's not an ambiguous sentence -- the author is saying that if they don't remove the debris, they're planning to have the crane take out a helicopter, and sell tickets.

    SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY! See Craninator, the Whoopin' Ass Crane, take down Chopicopter The Chopper! The ticket buys you the whole seat but you'll only need the edge!

    You are what you think.
  • if you haven't heard of Language Log [], you might be interested in checking it out.