3 Cases of Poorly Constructed Points and Counterpoints

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following sentences, a point and a counterpoint are posited, but the phrasing that supports them is poorly constructed; explanations and revisions that follow each example describe the problem and provide a solution.

1. The cynic in me believes it’s rarely done for aesthetic reasons but for strictly commercial ones.

This sentence requires an adverb complementary to rarely, and because that word and its opposite must share the verb done, the verb must precede both adverbs: “The cynic in me believes it’s done rarely for aesthetic reasons but often for strictly commercial ones.”

2. The audience doesn’t quite receive the events of the movie as a crisis, but rather as a calamity.

Similarly, for the point and counterpoint in this example to effectively share the verb receive, that word should immediately follow the subject, which requires delaying the not from its disguised appearance in the front-positioned doesn’t to immediately before the point, parallel with rather positioned before the counterpoint: “The audience receives the events of the movie not as a crisis, but rather as a calamity.”

3. Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend who hugs you.

This sentence may appear correct at first glance, but it is flawed in that the second half of the sentence doesn’t work as an independent clause (it lacks a verb following the conjunction but) or a dependent clause (it is complementary to, rather than dependent on, the main clause). The revision “Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but fear the fake friend who hugs you” is technically correct but flat, and it does not bear the same emphasis. “Fear not the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend who hugs you” is valid because positioning fear before not allows “the enemy who attacks you” and “the fake friend who hugs you” to be parallel in construction.

However, the archaic-looking syntax may be off-putting, so consider revising the statement so that it consists of independent clauses separated by a period or, better yet, a semicolon: “Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you; fear the fake friend who hugs you.”

Recommended for you: « »



Leave a comment: