Sunday, July 09, 2006
A sentence to balk at
Cubs fans suffer enough without having to deal with troublesome writing. Here's a sentence from a Chicago Tribune story about injured pitcher Kerry Wood:

Wood will take the next few weeks to decide whether or not to have arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage but said he's leaning towards not at this point.

The bad news would be a little easier to digest with a rewrite:

Wood will take the next few weeks to decide whether to have arthroscopic surgery. He said he is leaning against it.

Here are the problems with the original sentence:
  • Most of the time, "whether" doesn't need "or not" after it. The "or not" is implied.
  • "Repair the damage" doesn't add much. Why else would Wood have the surgery? The story had already mentioned that he had a partially torn rotator cuff, so the reader understands the objective of the surgery.
  • "Towards" should be "toward." But "leaning toward not" is still awkward and requires rewriting. "Against it" is more conversational and concise.
  • "At this point" is like "currently" — such modifiers can usually be deleted.
  • The sentence is too complicated. Simplify by making it two separate sentences.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 8:23 PM | Permalink |