Blog Post

Sentences need to make internal sense

Writing sentences that make internal sense – with content that connects across a sentence’s various parts – is an easily missed editing task.

Here’s a sentence written by my son’s school this week:

‘If successful in the preliminary round, the state final will be held at Griffith University on Saturday 14 November.’

The problem in this sentence relates to content agreement: it’s about two different things. And while I understand what the author means, I have to work to get there. What they’ve written isn’t what they want me to understand.

This sentence makes me want to reply: The state final will be held at Griffith University on Saturday 14 November whether my son is successful in the preliminary round or not!

The first part of the sentence is about my son: ‘If HE is successful in the preliminary round …’

But the second part of the sentence is about the competition: ‘The state final will be held at …’

An easy solution would be to make both parts of the sentence about my son: ‘If successful in the preliminary round, your son will attend the state final …’

Another option is to make it about teams: ‘Winning teams from the preliminary round will compete in the state final on …’

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