April 20, 2015

Simple, Complex, and Compound Sentences

TOPICS: ,

 

To understand how your sentence is constructed, look at the clauses.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click player above to listen to the podcast

  • Share

Burying the Lead
Posted by June on April 20, 2015
LABELS:

Not long ago, I edited an article about a researcher at a large university. The article started by talking about his exact relationship to the university – how he’s chair of this and professor of that. Then it said that the two institutes within the university of which this researcher is a part have a shared mission of healthcare innovation and, “in keeping with those two objectives,” he is developing a new technology for creating living tissue that will be used mainly for testing pharmaceuticals. Then the article talked a bit about how this tissue creation occurs, through advances in 3-D printing, then it talked about how previous generation 3-D printers had limited abilities and couldn’t do the tissue creation thing.

Then, in the third-to-last paragraph, it mentioned that he and his team had printed an artificial cornea and blood vessels and, oh, by the way, he just got a grant to develop a manufacturing process for human heart tissue.

Or, as I would put it: He made a !@$#!! cornea, !@$#!! blood vessels and is working on manufacturing !@$#!! !@$#!! !@$#!! human heart tissue.

There’s a term for this, ladies and gentlemen. It’s called burying the lead. And here’s how it happens: A writer assigned a story about such-and-such starts talking to Mr. So-and-So and gets all the background and the basics and what fellowship the guy holds and where, then they start talking about his work. Then they start talking about the fruits of his work. Then the reporter fails to register the jaw-dropping fact that this man is making hearts and eyeballs. Instead, the writer just regurgitates the information in the same basic format as the one in which it was laid out to him.

It’s like the old Nora Ephron story about how when she was in high school, her journalism class was asked to write a lead for a story about some school board bigwig who oversees such-and-such and is holding a faculty meeting on Tuesday to discuss whoseits and whatnot. All the students wrote leads incorporating those events and the visiting dignitaries' name. None of the students wrote the lead the teacher was looking for, which was: There will be no school on Tuesday.

The lesson here: Always home in on the piece of information that’s most interesting or pertinent for the reader and weight it accordingly. It’s what good writers do.

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

The Best Punctuation Book, Period

A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

The most comprehensive punctuation guide ever, “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” doesn’t just cover the basic rules. It delves into gray areas of punctuation left unclear by the other rule books, showing how the rules differ in four different editing styles. There's also an A to Z reference of commonly mispunctuated terms. more

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite

What do suicidal pandas, doped-up rock stars, and a naked Pamela Anderson have in common? They’re all a heck of a lot more interesting than reading about predicate nominatives and hyphens. June Casagrande knows this and has invented a whole new twist on the grammar book. more

Mortal Syntax

Mortal Syntax takes on the 101 most frequently attacked usage choices. Dedicating one short chapter to each, Casagrande brings her subject to life, teaching English usage through lively and amusing personal anecdotes. more

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

Your story may be brilliant. Your insights may be groundbreaking. Your characters may be so real you can almost touch them. But they're not worth a thing if you can't bring them to life in well-written sentences. more

  • A Reminder About "John and I" vs. "John and Me"

    June Laura: The choice between "I" and "me" depends on the sentence structure, and your example isn't a sentence. It's just some nouns. So either "Marsha, John, and I" or "Marsha, John, and Me" could be correct. It's when a verb is present -- or even implied -- that the rules kick in. If the photo caption is an implied way of saying, "Marsha, John, and I visited the Eiffel Tower," then you need a subject for the verb "visited." And because "I" is the subject form, it would be correct in this context. In "The Eiffel Tower dwarfs Marsha, John, and me," the object pronoun "me" is correct because it's the object of the verb. But there's a twist here: A truncated photo caption like this might be understood to mean "HERE ARE Marsha, John, and I/me," and that structure is a weird one. Think about "Here we are" then flip it into "Here are we." That's kind of what a photo caption might mean. And note that, while this works with "we" (a subject), it doesn't work with "us" (an object). Here we are. not here us are. So subject pronouns like "we" and "I" make more grammatical sense here. However, to follow this rule to the letter would be a bit like saying, "Laura is taller than I" in casual conversation. Grammatical, sure. Natural, not really. So grammatically, if the caption is a truncated way of saying "Here are Marsha, John, and I/me," you can choose either. "I" would make a bit more syntactical sense, but "me" would probably be more natural. And that's the form I'd use in almost every casual situation: Marsha, John, and Me.

  • A Reminder About "John and I" vs. "John and Me"

    laura Which is correct in a situation such as a caption to a photo labeled "Marsha, John, and I"? It looks odd to me, and I think "I" should perhaps be "me," but I can't find any proof. If I turn it into a sentence it should be me?[This photo shows] Marsha, John, and me. What do you think?

  • What to Capitalize in a Headline

    June Jim: That was my summary of how I see it done and some in-house policies I've known about. I don't see it cited in the AP guide, either.

  • 'Born Of' or 'Borne Of'

    Ken That's why copy editors would do well to actually read classic literature and not limit their efforts to "two passes of a text". What you speak of is a palpable distinction familiar to anyone who is not a stranger to the great works of literature. Unfortunately, this has become a minority group, as the bite-sized culture takes firm hold.

  • 'Born Of' or 'Borne Of'

    burp Your test relies on the correctness of Helen Reddy's spelling. I found 373M hits on Google for "man born of woman", and only 25M hits for "man borne of woman", but one of those 25M hits is Job 14:1 (1611 King James Bible): "Man that is borne of a woman, is of few dayes, and full of trouble."