Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bad Introductory Phrase du Jour

A real sentence (slightly disguised) that I edited yesterday:
"With the idea that instead of shopping all around New York, the attendees could have the city's best shops brought to them, retail outlets were set up with unique offerings of fashions, home decor, toys and cookware."

Even more than the two unnecessary passives that follow, it's the introductory phrase that floors me: "With the idea that instead of ..."

There was no coming back from that. I overhauled the whole sentence, making it something like:

"New York's top retailers set up boutiques at the festival, creating a one-stop shop for some of the city's finest fashions, home decor, toys and cookware."

Amazing how that tangible subject + verb formula can save a bad sentence.

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slade said...

when i was a copy editor, the one sentence we were supposed to try not to mess with was the lead. i'd have lost it if someone gave me that one.

June Casagrande said...

Interesting! I try to leave leads intact because they're so often a capsule of the writer's angle and his voice. But that's also a place where writers get tripped up a lot. For example, you see a lot of contrast/"although" observations in leads.

"Although anyone who pictures her dream wedding can't help but first imagine wearing white, a surprising number of color alternatives are showing up at the altar." Those attempts at poining out counterintuitive stuff often result in clunky sentences like that one. So, as much as I try not to tinker with leads, I often do (though working very hard to preserve the writer's voice and meaning).

That New York shopping sentence was not the story lead, though. It came at about the middle of the piece.


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