1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    ambiguity?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by architectus, Oct 25, 2009.

    I thought of something cool we could discuss: Sentence structure that leads to ambiguity.

    Here is an example:

    Although we might want the word "quickly" to be emphatic, it leads to ambiguity if a participle follows the adverb, as does "dropping" following "quickly."

    We could move the adverb to the un-emphatic place.

    We could remove the participle.

    So I guess when editing, we could watch for advebs preceding participles.

    Please share other structures that lead to ambiguity and how to avoid them. :)

    If you have better suggestions on how to remove ambiguity, please comment.

    Pronoun Ambiguity

    The placement of "who" and "which" can lead to ambiguity. You might, by use of a comma, try to remove the problem.

    Because of the placement of commas, we would assume the "who" in "1" refers to Sandy, and the "who" in "2" refers to Jill, but wouldn't it be better to move "who"?

    So to avoid ambiguity, we can search for places where a pronoun follows two nouns in a previous phrase, clause, or sentence.

    Another example.

    With this example, I think I should change the pronoun to a noun to remove ambiguity.

    Perhaps here is another way to remove ambiguity.

    Any further thoughts on this? Please share.
     
  2. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Reading your first example reminded me of that rule of ambiguity with he/she.

    For example,

    The security guard ran after the kid, chasing him down the mall, while the store manager peeped his head out to see what direction they had ran. He looked both ways before he realized where the kid had gone.

    Technically in that sentence the "he" can either refer to the guard or the store manager, making it ambiguous. It is usually fixed by substituting the "he" with who you are referring to.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Right.

    You could also start the next sentence with something like: With thumbs in security built, he looked both ways . . .

    If you didn't wish to write: The security guard looked both ways . . .
     
  4. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Just wondering, businessmen is one word right or can it actually be written as two words?

    In example 9 and 10, the way you use "who", it can refer to "she" or "the businessmen". I mean, we can probably infer it is the girl thinking that "the cars" or "the men" were out of this world. But at the same time, it could be the bussiness men who are thinking the cars are out of the world.
     
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    architectus Banned

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    Yes, businessmen should be one word. I'll change that.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Here's another cool rule to avoid ambiguity.

    How to Write Clearly, by Edwin A. Abbott

     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    How to Write Clearly, by Edwin Abbott Abbott

    So notice that you don't have to write such short sentences as: This great and good man died on September 17, 1683. He left behind him the memory of many nobel actions, and a numberous family, oh whom three were sons. (The principle subject in the second sentence is still the good man, so there is no need to start a new sentences.)

    You can write: This great and good man died on Septermber 17, 1683, leaving behind him the memory of many nobel actions, and a numerous family, of whom three were sons.

    I guess then what she is saying not to do is: Jack hicked up the hill, heaving his iron-like legs, and Jill hiked behind him, seemingly out of breath.

    This sentences as two principle subjects: Jack and Jill. So removed the conjection and start a new senetence with "Jill hiked."

    Keep in mind, though, just because a sentence is long doesn't mean you have to break it up. If there is only one principle subject, and if the sentences is easy to read, then it can be long.

    BTW this book is online for free, as it has no copyright in the USA.
     

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