Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prepositional train wreck

Diagramming party to action stations! Let's play "pin the prepositional phrase on the noun":

President Bush is scheduled to give Furman's graduation speech May 31 at this fairly conservative school of 2,625 undergraduate students with Baptist roots in the state's traditionally conservative Upstate region.

It's all -- I think -- technically "grammatical." The problem is that it's grammatical about several different things at once. The writer (or the editor) decided to dump a bunch of Furman-related stuff into the predicate at random. Most of it seems accurate, and some of it seems relevant (though if the writer can't be any more direct than "fairly conservative," that particular judgment doesn't seem very interesting). But it doesn't really add up to anything meaningful, because it has no idea what it means.

Eighteenth verse, same as the first. Journalism is supposed to be a craft of clear and direct writing. (I'm sure of this because our holy writ tells us we need to interpret for those damn academics, who can't be trusted to tell us what their work really means.) If you're giving this sort of prepositional train wreck a green light while you triumphantly spear another harmless "split infinitive," you aren't editing. With respect to Truman Capote, you're barely even typing.



Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

So students who don't have roots in the upstate area can't get into Furman? Or just don't want to?

11:13 AM, May 13, 2008  
Blogger TootsNYC said...

to give Furman's graduation speech May 31 at this fairly conservative school

So, he's giving Furman's graduation speech to some OTHER school?

7:46 PM, May 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2,625 undergraduate students with Baptist roots

So, are they Baptists, or are they apostates from Baptist families?

2:57 PM, May 15, 2008  

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