Grins & Gripes

Let’s look and learn about language clarity by discussing written expressions that captivate and confuse readers.

The Waters of Fiction

Slants & Storylines

Attention Writers: Thanks for letting me pick apart your wonderful work.

A Note to Readers: My suggestions are based only on language and to the exclusion of the valuable content relayed.

*If you have an article that you would like me to include in my next review, please email me at aninchwide@gmail.com

  • Order Over Chaos

    While heroically meeting the deadlines and demands of our fast-paced world, Wojnarowski earns GRINS for his choice of diction (with “evolving” and “eligible”)  and for his sophisticated use of the noun phrase, “one of the most accomplished”. Wojnarowki gets more GRINS and avoids wordiness by choosing “NBA history” over “the history of the NBA”.

    Underneath Wojnarowski’s wonderful words is a presentation of content that appears a little chaotic. Yes, a messy mind is a creative one. Yes, random thoughts in writing can reflect the honest process of thought development. Writing should not be so regulated that it loses the purity of expression. 

    However, order in language helps create connections between writers and readers. With respect to Wojnarowski’s work, I noticed a pattern developing behind the seemingly random list of events. For the sake of discussion, I’d like to see if slight changes to the order of information generate more clarity.

    • Wojnarowsky writes:  “Doncic, one of the most accomplished players in NBA history at 22 years old and rapidly evolving into the future face of the league, becomes the first player eligible for the designated rookie max extension upon signing because he has twice been voted first-team All-NBA.”

    The sentence is long; the order of information appears to have no particular structure.  To clarify the content, I labeled the ideas in the copy below according to the past, future, and present. In the edit, I divided the four thoughts into two sentences, placed the noun phrase first, and rearranged the time sequence at the end. Instead of present-future-future-past structure, the edit displays: present-future-past-future.

    • Wojnarowsky writes:  “Doncic, one of the most accomplished players in NBA history at 22 years old (Present) and rapidly evolving into the future face of the league, (Future) becomes the first player eligible for the designated rookie max extension upon signing (Future) because he has twice been voted first-team All-NBA. (Past)” 
    • The Edit: “One of the most accomplished players in NBA history at 22 years old, (Present) Doncic is rapidly evolving into the future face of the league (Future). Twice voted first-team All-NBA (Past), he will become the first player eligible for the designated rookie-max-extension upon signing. (Future)”
    1. The original sentence is just too long, and I cannot really entertain another view on that point.
    2. Does – keeping the subject and predicate together (Doncic / is rapidly evolving) – read more smoothly?  I think it does.
    3. Does the change in time sequence at the end provide more clarity? (Each sentence in the revision now begins with a noun phrase, which seems unavoidable.) I think this does also.

    I believe that readers sense the organizational pattern in a grammatical structure, which allows them to have a smoother reading experience.  More generally, the world favors order over chaos.  The 2021 Nobel Prize was awarded to scientists that brought “order to chaos”. This week  WP’s Editorial Board expressed concern about “Haiti’s Descent into Chaos”. Bilello’s article warns against “Project Chaos”. Read my next blog about sentence structure by checking in or by subscribing via email below.  Cheers to learning!

  • Healthy Boundaries

    In our personal lives, boundaries make for healthy relationships; in our writing lives, sentence boundaries help readers methodically follow a number of thoughts. In his article on Nintendo earnings, Sam Byford’s very sophisticated thought process might be resulting in a sentence structure that is a little bit too long. Byford reaches out to an everyday audience in his first paragraph by using contractions like “that’s” and “what’s” but uses a sentence that contains about five thoughts. Five thoughts in one sentence might be a lot for the average joe, or any reader, to process at one time.

    • Byford writes: “Nintendo has released its earnings for the April-June quarter, and while the figures would normally be strong for what’s usually a slow period, revenue and profit are both down compared to a year ago.

    I identified the different thoughts in the sentence, labeling them A, B, C, D, and E – with A as the first idea.

    • “Nintendo just released its earnings for the April-June quarter, (Idea A) and while the figures would be normally strong (Idea B) for what’s usually a slow period, (Idea C) revenue and profit are both down (Idea D) compared to a year ago (Idea E).”

    Simply dividing up the five ideas into two sentences, one with A & one with B, C, D, & E together. As a separate sentence, the first idea in this edit adds emphasis.

    • “Nintendo just released its earnings for the April-June quarter, (Idea A). While the figures would be normally strong (Idea B) for what’s usually a slow period, (Idea C) revenue and profit are both down (Idea D) compared to a year ago (Idea E).”

    Does the second sentence need editing?

    Byford’s GRIPE is among bigs GRINS – with the personality-rich phrase, “riding a surge” and with the alliteration in “strong” and “slow” generating interest.  

    If you’re also in the habit of packing too many ideas into one sentence, consider reviewing Grammarly’s discussion on sentence basics. Or, you might want to simply slow down and take a breath before composing your next article. Completing a 1-Minute Mindfulness Exercise before writing might result in more focused language choices. Stay healthy; respect sentence boundaries so that you too can communicate clearly with your audience.

    Did my edit make the sentence better or worse? Read the debate about Byford’s sentence on Reddit.

  • One Step at a Time

    Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

    Nagi makes her cake batter before she pours it into the pan. Pfizer and BioNTech will first send the government “additional doses of their Covid-19 vaccine” before the government donates them.  U.S. and Russian officials discussed issues before they addressed them. Since the “making”, “sending”, and “discussing” occurred first, the writers of these articles list them first. Since the “pouring”, “donating”, and “constructing” occurred second, these events are listed second in the text.

    Does the sequential order of information work in journalism also?

    Associated Press’ article on Henrik Stenson presents a list of events – likely organized by importance that presents the most crucial piece of information listed first.

    Associate Press writes:

    Henrik Stenson will still have a role for Europe at the Ryder Cup despite failing to get onto the team.

    The Swedish player was selected by European captain Padraig Harrington on Wednesday as the fifth and final vice captain for the event at Whistling Straits from Sept. 24-26. 

    The 45-year-old Stenson has played in five Ryder Cups, including the past three.

    As it is, the content relays a future event in the first sentence and follows up with a mixture of past and present references.  To clarify, I ordered by numbering the events 1-4 with 1 – representing the furthest past and with 4 – representing the future, noting the time sequence as 4, 2, 3, and 1.

    (4) Henrik Stenson will still have a role for Europe at the Ryder Cup (2) despite failing to get onto the team.

    (3) The Swedish player was selected by European captain Padraig Harrington on Wednesday as the fifth and final vice captain for the event at Whistling Straits from Sept. 24-26. 

    (1) The 45-year-old Stenson has played in five Ryder Cups, including the past three.

    In this order, the events are confusing the average reader. What’s happening when? I tried to turn this GRIPE into a GRIN by changing the order of event and the verb forms and by adding transitions. My edit, however, loses the attention-getting opener, which made this text less interesting.

     (1)  A 45-year-old Stenson had played in five Ryder Cups, including the past three, (2) before failing to get onto the team.

    (3) The Swedish player was selected by European captain Padraig Harrington on Wednesday as the fifth and final vice captain for the event at Whistling Straits from Sept. 24-26.

    (4) Now, Henrik Stenson still has a role for Europe at the Ryder Cup.

    Since the purpose of the first sentence is – not to explain context, but to generate interest, the paragraph works better with the most recent even first, as the Reddit community suggested, as they reprimanded me (okay, okay, Reddit. Settle down!) In this edit, I begin with the most important event, and follow it with the sequential order of information.

    (4) Henrik Stenson still has a role for Europe at the Ryder Cup. 

    (1)  45-year-old Stenson had played in five Ryder Cups, including the past three, (2) before failing to get onto the team.

    (3) The Swedish player was selected by European captain Padraig Harrington as the fifth and final vice captain for the event at Whistling Straits from Sept. 24-26.

    Thanks AP for letting me use your text. Can I just give extrat GRINS to its expert use of the adjective-noun. In “45-year-old Stenson” and “European Captain”, the adjective-noun form is less wordy and reads better than “Stenson is 45 years old” or “Padraig is the European Captain”. 

    Take a look at how beautifully Geggel uses the time sequence to explain the process of fossilization in her article on “99-year of spider mummies”.  Geggel gets DOUBLE GRINS for the logic in her structure and for using parallel structure in her verb forms. Expertly, she moves from the verbs, “were guarding” and “were trapped”,  to “hardened”, “mined”, and “considered”. How logical!  What clarity!  Read more about the logic and clarity by subscribing to the website below.   

About Me

A long-time English teacher, it’s no surprise that Jurout’s fiction promotes literacy and education. The linguistics classes that she completed while attaining a Master’s Degree in English Education inspired a love of editing. When she isn’t experimenting with new recipes, reading, or watching documentaries, she’s exploring a new voice in a work of flash fiction or working on a fresh angle in another blog.

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