Friday, June 25, 2010

Copy Edit du Jour

Two major aspects of the infrastructure revitalization will include revamping education and healthcare systems.

Changed to:

The education and healthcare systems will be revamped.

In the last couple years, I've come to despise structures that say an "aspect" of something is something else: "One fun aspect of the day camp is getting to catch your own fish."

Why not just make the main clause a simple human subject+real action structure? "Kids get to catch their own fish."

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Joel said...

I've been trying to do this particular thing myself. But it's often difficult because when I make the shift, it feels like the simple statement implies a broader characterization, which seems almost dishonest. Of course that just highlights the fact that I'm giving my readers a self-consciously and pathetically fragmented view of whatever it is I'm describing even while I feel a pathological need for them to imagine it from a wider angle.

So, yeah, I agree that the structure is despicable. And, sadly, it usually points to a deeper despicability.

June Casagrande said...

Yeah, it is tough. But in the cases I come across, the meaning is the real problem. The main subject in "One aspect of the park is that kids get to eat cheese" is "aspect" and the main verb is "is," so "an aspect is" becomes the main thought of the sentence. The problem with that is that, in light feature articles, it would make more sense to emphasize the information in the subordinate clause: "that kids get to eat cheese." That's where all the interesting new information is crammed. Yet it's not what gets emphasized in the sentence. In tech writing, the part about one thing being an aspect of another may indeed be more important. But in feature writing, interesting and substantive information should get higher billing.

(I'm much better at this as an editor than as a writer, by the way. My brain wants to form these convoluted constructions all the time, but only sometimes do I catch myself.)


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