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Another comma nailed down

Opening up baltimoresun.com’s latest dispatch on the state’s attorney hoo-hah, I came to a stop at the first sentence:

After 15 years in office, a source says Patricia C. Jessamy is expected to concede Friday that Baltimore voters did not give her another term as their top prosecutor.

No doubt you, eagle-eyes, spotted the same thing I did. Without a comma after says to make clear that a source says is a parenthetical phrase, the sentence tells you that it is the source, not Patricia Jessamy, that has been in office for fifteen years.

This little blip with interpolated attribution occurs quite frequently in journalism. I had a quick word with a colleague, and now the website has a source says at the end of the opening sentence, where it is probably happier.

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 12:52 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Comments

This is a genuine dangler (though not a dangling participle). But doesn't "a source says" belong at the top? Surely the most important meta-fact about this claim is that it's not publicly confirmed.

A close relative of "She was arrested after police said she walked into the store and robbed the clerk at gunpoint."

What's wrong with "According to a source,........."

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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 john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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