3 Examples of How Missing Words Cause Confusion

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following sentences, the absence of a word or phrase is an obstacle to clarity. Discussion after each sentence explains the problem, and a revision provides the solution.

1. The naturally occurring electrolytes are significantly higher than other brands.

The comparison in this sentence is not between electrolytes and other brands; it is between electrolytes in a product marketed under one brand and electrolytes in a product marketed under other brands. This revision uses a pronoun and a preposition to communicate the true equivalency: “The naturally occurring electrolytes are significantly higher than those in other brands.”

2. The contraception app has become a popular alternative because it doesn’t involve taking any medicines, inserting devices, or hormone patches.

Three older contraceptive methods are listed in counterpoint to a newer one, but while the sentence structure requires a verb to precede the word or phrase for each method, “hormone patches” lacks one. This revision inserts a verb: “The contraception app has become a popular alternative because it doesn’t involve taking any medicines, inserting devices, or using hormone patches.”

3. Financial institutions are no longer required to implement the rule and retain the option of including mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.

This sentence is structured as if it consists of a single main clause, but logic requires that it be constructed of two independent clauses. It reads as if “implement the rule” and “retain the option . . .” are equivalent, but the complementary phrases are “are no longer required to implement the rule” and the entire portion of the sentence following the conjunction, so a noun or pronoun must be inserted after the conjunction (along with a comma before it) to form the second independent clause: “Financial institutions are no longer required to implement the rule, and they retain the option of including mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.”


5 Responses to “3 Examples of How Missing Words Cause Confusion”

  • D.A.W.

    Example sentences #2 and #3:
    Bureaucratese, bureaucratese, and more bureaucratese!!
    Ugh! Ugh!

  • D.A.W.

    Continuing because of a malfunctioning Web site:
    As venqax and some others have stated, many of the American ways of saying things are not “new”, but rather they were used in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, etc., circa 1788, but they were changed during the time of the British Empire. (i.e. during the reign of Queen Victoria and King Edward VIII.)
    They were changed just to be “trendy”, just like the word “tire” was changed to “tyre”.

  • D.A.W.

    A sports announcer was recently speaking British English on American TV. Egad!
    He said “three-and-one-half tenths of a second”. Monstrous!
    [This could be written as 3 1/2 tenths of a second.]
    The correct American ways to say it are “35 one-hundredths of a second” or “35 hundredths of a second”.
    I say that if one is going to work for an American company, and accept American dollars in payment, then one should train oneself to speak American English.
    The same applies with “Canadian” or “Australian” substituted for “American”.
    ——————————————————————
    Furthermore, some Britons have the odd way of saying things like “two-and-one half thousand” [2,500], rather than the much more concise “25 hundred”, or even “two thousand, five hundred”.
    —————————————————————–
    As venqax and some others have stated, many of the American ways of saying things are not “new”, but rather they were used in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, etc., circa 1788, bu t t

  • D.A.W.

    Even better:
    “The naturally occurring electrolytes in this brand are significantly higher than those in others.”

  • D.A.W.

    Mr. Nichol, you are so right with this one.

    Many parts of the language need to be logical, just like in mathematics or formal logic.

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