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Keep your relatives close!

November 17, 2011

What’s wrong with this sentence?

Physical barriers are provided around the Acme Plant to help prevent damage injury or from dropped or falling objects includes overhead protection and kick plates.

At a quick glance, there are several things wrong with it:

Let’s look at that last one. When you read the sentence as originally written, you could think that ‘overhead protection and kick plates’ are examples of dropped or falling objects because the ‘including…’ phrase comes straight after the ‘dropped…’ phrase.

Someone who does not have English as their native language could easily misinterpret this sentence; native English speakers may compensate and switch the words around in their head to get it right, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. So, how can this sentence be rewritten to make it clear what object the ‘overhead protection and kick plates’ relate to?

There are two objects in this sentence that these ‘including…’ items may relate to – ‘physical barriers (around the Acme Plant)’ and ‘dropped and falling objects’. As the ‘including…’ items are measures to prevent dropped and falling objects, they can’t be examples of dropped and falling objects! That leaves ‘physical barriers’, which fits.

Knowing that ‘overhead protection and kick plates’ relate to ‘physical barriers’, here are some ways of rewording this sentence:

Physical barriers, including overhead protection and kick plates, around the Acme Plant help prevent damage or injury from dropped or falling objects.

or

Physical barriers around the Acme Plant help prevent damage or injury from dropped or falling objects; such barriers include overhead protection and kick plates.

or

Physical barriers around the Acme Plant, such as overhead protection and kick plates, help prevent damage or injury from dropped or falling objects.

Bottom line: Keep your relatives close! Make sure related items stay near each other in a sentence.

See also:

[Links last checked November 2011; based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues]

One comment

  1. […] How to use verbs (YouTube video; 2 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=997AGy7zJy4 (related to this: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/keep-your-relatives-close/) […]



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