Awkward syntax in newapaper column

Spectre scolaire

Senior Member
Maltese and Russian
Have a look at this sentence taken from a column in International Herald Tribune some days ago:

But this particular piece of advice is based on an incorrect understanding the nature of the text messaging and hence completely invalid.

I’d call this an anacoluthon. ;)

One could possibly save the sentence by writing based on incorrectly understanding, but I still don’t find it quite acceptable.

On the other hand, an incorrect understanding of the nature of the text is clumsy. :eek:
:) :)
 
  • Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I wouldn't call it an anacoluthon. There isn't the rhetorical effect that you would expect. It just seems like a bit of sloppy construction.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    That looks like an anacoluthon to me (now that I've looked it up to find out what it means). The whole of the end of the sentence seems a bit of a dog's breakfast to me; I'd have put it like this:
    ... incorrect understanding of text messaging, and so is completely invalid.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    It is pointless to comment on a sentence provided without context.

    Forum guidelines require both background and context when these are available, as they clearly are in this case.


    Thread closed.
     

    Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    For more clarity around this anacoluthic sentence, here is a larger context (immediately preceding what I originally posted):

    Some of us can fire off a mobile phone text message at the speed of light, but Slow lifers are saying we should stop abbreviating and get into the habit of starting messages with “Dear...” But this particular [etc.]
    :) :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    But this particular piece of advice is based on an incorrect understanding the nature of the text messaging and hence completely invalid.

    I’d call this an anacoluthon.
    I'd call it sloppy writing or sloppy copy-editing or both. In context it's perfectly obvious what was intended:

    But this particular piece of advice is based on an incorrect understanding of the nature of the text messaging and hence completely invalid.

    My dictionary tells me that the rhetorical device is, "
    An abrupt change within a sentence to a second construction inconsistent with the first, sometimes used for rhetorical effect; for example, I warned him that if he continues to drink, what will become of him?"

    This does not appear to be an intentional use of any rhetorical device. It's just bad writing or bad editing.
     

    Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    My dictionary tells me that the rhetorical device is, "An abrupt change within a sentence to a second construction inconsistent with the first, sometimes[sic!] used for rhetorical effect."
    This does not appear to be an intentional use of any rhetorical device. It's just bad writing or bad editing.
    I wouldn't call it an anacoluthon. There isn't the rhetorical effect that you would expect.[?] It just seems like a bit of sloppy construction.
    I think there is a misunderstanding as to the primary meaning of an anacoluthon. Webster has a good definition:

    syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence
    Used as a rhetorical device it is an altogether secondary thing. There are many famous examples of anacolutha in literature.

    The example taken from the column in question is an anacoluthon – in the real sense of the word.

    Here is the problem – segmented into acceptable sentence pieces:

    ***But this particular piece of advice is based on an incorrect understanding [of] (...whatever)

    ***understanding the nature of the text messaging [is] (...whatever)

    ***and hence completely invalid.

    Combining these two sentences (and its “conclusion”) in the way the author does is simply wrong – or, one could call it a typical anacoluthon. What really surprises me is the article (which cuchuflete has deleted in #7, and so I did above). It is very common among both Greeks and Turks – an interesting phenomenon because the languages are so different! – to “abuse the use”, so to say, of the definite article the when writing English. The author of the anacoluthon is Greek/Australian. Either it is not there when it should be, or there is too much of it. ;)

    Of course I agree, at the end of the day, with cuchuflete saying that “It’s just bad writing or bad editing”. Mostly “bad writing” I’d say. Some people don’t properly review what they have written, and the editor doesn’t care (which is surprising). Instead of publishing sloppy syntax, the editor should refuse it – unless (s)he thought this was a refined example of an anacoluthon in the secondary sense of the word. :D

    In context it's perfectly obvious what was intended.
    Only, that was not the issue here. ;)

    :) :)
     
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