Maddening Modifying Phrases
comments powered by Disqus
A Times article about a Los Angeles lawyer, John B. Quinn, a founder of the Quinn Emanuel law firm, has the dubious distinction of including two consecutive paragraphs that begin with maddeningly imprecise modifying phrases.
The Times writes:
The next paragraph begins:
What is this article attempting to communicate? Was Mr. Quinn born in Virginia? Or was his entire family born there?
The same question can be asked of "raised Mormon." Does it apply only to Mr. Quinn? Or to his entire family, including his parents? Is he, or they, still Mormon? The Times doesn't say. Why not write, "The Quinns, who were Mormon, relocated to Utah when John was 12"? The writer seems to be trying to convey that the family moved to Utah because they were Mormons, but she's trapped in a pattern of starting sentences with these introductory phrases, and her editors seem unable to help her out of it.
The first sentence could have been fixed by simply breaking it up: "Mr. Quinn was born in Virginia. His family moved to Connecticut when he was 2, and the proximity to New York made him a museum enthusiast."
There was a day when Times feature writing was so good that it might be included in textbooks as examples of stellar prose. Now it's at the level of clumsiness where it might be included in textbooks as examples of how not to write. Does anyone edit this stuff? If so, are they fluent in English? Or have all the skilled wordsmiths at the Times taken buyouts, their full-time-equivalencies now reallocated to paying in-house millennial social media marketing types or cruise-ship-tour-guides to escort elderly Times Tourists to Iran, Cuba, and other destinations fashionable among the newspaper's hard-left readers? How would Theodore Menline Bernstein, or even Allan M. Siegal, have improved these sentences? Is there anyone employed at the Times today who remembers those men and the care with which they approached language?
Does the Times think its readers are too dumb to notice these sorts of lapses? Or does the newspaper's management calculate, with some justification, that we paying readers have no alternative publication to flee to, no matter how bad Times editing gets?
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC