Friday, March 10, 2006

Heed no nightly noise (double feature)

Latest in a series of small-scale reminders of the difference between genuine grammatical rules and silly prescriptivist twitches. Some recent examples:

Analysts said Friday, however, that with Gulf nations awash in cash from oil profits, the United States remains a tempting market to invest.

Looks as if the AP, flinching at the thought of a ruler-wielding grammar-school ghost about to bust its knuckles, decided not to end its sentence with a preposition. Too bad. That's a grammar problem, because transitive "invest" means a lot of rather different stuff than intransitive "invest." The AP wanted "invest in," meaning to put money into the United States, not "invest," meaning, say, to put the United States into an IRA, or to clothe it, or to surround it with troops. Thus, in obeying a fake rule, the writer breaks a real one.1

Here's a more Missourian-specific peeve; the result isn't a broken rule, but it is weak writing brought on by fear of a fake rule.

Deaton’s report states that Snyder’s response at the time was, “I think I’m better off resigning.”

The report also states that Snyder was aware of expectations more than a year ago.

Once again: Reports don't "state." Reports "say." As a matter of general practice, use "state" only with a simple direct object:

He stated his objections to the plan.

The platform states the party's position on foreign trade.

Don't use it with a clause object, no matter whether the subject is a person or a piece of paper:

* He stated that he was happy.

* The affidavit stated that the athletic director is a six-legged robot gerbil under the control of Carmine "Cigar" Galante.

Got it?

1) In fixing this one, be sure to avoid the related error known as the McCartney preposition: "... remains a tempting market in which to invest in."


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