5 Examples of Confused Sentences

By Mark Nichol

When writers neglect to take sufficient care in forming sentences, confusion and error can easily result. The following five sentences illustrate various ways in which the wrong word order or choice of phrasing can obfuscate meaning; discussion and a revision follows each example.

1. Various supervisors have developed their own risk assessment methodologies independently, which are not always directly comparable.

A restrictive clause (one that starts with which and provides an additional and optional detail), should immediately follow the word or phrase it refers to (after the intervening comma, that is); do not permit another part of speech, such as the adverb independently, in this example, to separate them: “Various supervisors have independently developed their own risk assessment methodologies, which are not always directly comparable.”

2. If you’d like to read more about Smith’s beliefs, many more of them are detailed on his website.

Many more of Smith’s beliefs are detailed on his website whether you’d like to read more about them or not. The following revision of a false conditional expresses the immutable presence of Smith’s beliefs on his website regardless of your interest in reading about them: “If you’d like to read more about Smith’s beliefs, visit his website to read many more of them.”

3. However, U.S. regulators go further by specifying that special due diligence is performed.

The important distinction that the action must be performed, rather than that it is being performed, is obscured by use of the wrong form of the verb: “However, U.S. regulators go further by specifying that special due diligence be performed.”

4. Conventional data-management strategies used to factor in only data sources within the enterprise.

This sentence states that at a previous time, something occurred. However, the phrase “used to” could be misunderstood to mean “employed in order to,” leading to further confusion because the sentence then appears to be incomplete, because there is no object. Alternatively, the reader might read “used to” to mean “accustomed to,” with the same result. The sentence will read unambiguously if the verb phrase is altered, as in “Conventional data-management strategies previously factored in only data sources within the enterprise.”

5. Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime.

This sentence states that of all the rapes committed, none is a gender-motivated hate crime. The statement is clumsy, but worse, it is not what the writer meant to say. The point that although some or many rapes may be committed with that motivation, others are not. That meaning is conveyed by a simple relocation of the negation: “Not every rape is a gender-motivated hate crime.”

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


3 Responses to “5 Examples of Confused Sentences”

  • Briana

    In line with #2, waitstaff at restaurants often say, “My name is X if you need anything!” My favorite response is to ask what their name is if I DON’T need anything.

  • YY

    You wrote:
    5 Examples of Confused Sentences, 1. … A restrictive clause (one that starts with which and provides an additional and optional detail), should immediately follow the word or phrase it refers to (after the intervening comma, that is);

    My question:
    Isn’t that a non-restrictive clause?

    Thanks. I have always enjoyed reading your posts.

  • Paja Tapuih

    That point.
    1. Various supervisors have developed their own risk assessment methodologies independently, which are not always directly comparable.

    I really like this sentece.

Leave a comment: