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Position, position, position

English having comparatively few inflections to help the reader sort out the syntactical elements, it depends heavily on word order and position within the sentence.

An example of how this can go awry comes from a reader of this blog who also reads a metropolitan daily in another state, in which she found this:

Mr. Banescu had lived for years at 10 Plaza Street East, across Flatbush Avenue from where he parked his car, on the 12th floor of a co-op building.

And, continuing the struggle against journalistically misplaced adverbs, here’s a citation from Headsup:

Convention keynoter Rudy Giuliani Tuesday upbraided a reporter who asked whether Palin's daughter's pregnancy was distracting from the convention.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)


Be grateful for relatively few inflections. The alternative would be a language like Finnish, which has 14 (!) cases. I took a year of Finnish in graduate school. Besides the sheer number of case endings, Finnish has a smaller alphabet than English (not counting loan letters), so all the endings sound and look similar: -alla, -illa, -ilta, -ille... ow, I think I just hurt my head trying to remember them all.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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