From Nathan Bransford:
David Owen of The New Yorker and I should absolutely go bowling together because he has written an exhaustive screed against front-loaded, somersaulting sentences, which has a surprising history with roots in journalism and misguided “elegant variation.” David my man, tell it like it is:
The awkwardness is obvious if you imagine hearing one in conversation. No one has ever said to you, “A sophomore at Cornell, my niece is coming home for Christmas,” or “Sixty-six years old, my wife is an incredible cook.” Either sentence, if spoken, would sound almost comical, as though the speaker were struggling to learn English. (You wouldn’t use one in an e-mail or a text to a friend, either.) Yet, if you were writing an obituary for your college’s alumni magazine, let’s say, you wouldn’t hesitate: “A standout schoolboy athlete, he ran his family’s door-and-window business.”
Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford
3 thoughts on “The worst sentence structure on the planet”
Oh, yeah I can see what he means because what comes in the “back” doesn’t seem related to what’s in the “front” of the front-loaded sentences: Sixty-six years old, my wife is an incredible cook.” What is the relationship between being 66 and an incredible cook? But I wouldn’t blink twice if he said, Sixty-six years old, my wife is still an incredible gymnast.” Or something where her age would be relevant and remarkable.
Same deal with the Cornell student coming home for Christmas. Although I can somewhat see the relevance if her folks live far from Ithaca and they’re trying to convey the distance she’s traveling, while getting in a brag at the same time. Still, the sentence structure is not conversational, and it would sound weird if a character put it that way.
Perhaps we could add things like,
“As a white male, I think Netflix charges too much.”
“As an engineer, I think marginal tax brackets should be indexed to inflation.”
“As a brilliant lawyer, I grind my teeth every time I encounter an Oxford comma.”
“As a veteran, I’d say the Dodge Charger isn’t as responsive as the Mustang.”
The other problem with these is that they lend themselves to dangling modifiers:
“A professional dancer, I had first set eyes on her…” (where the speaker is not the professional dancer).
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