3 Sentences That Present Obstacles to Comprehension
In each of the following sentences, the statement’s wording or syntax problematically interferes with reader comprehension. Discussion and revision of each example points the way to a clear solution.
1. He exchanged greetings with leaders from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
This sentence implies that Afghanistan and Zimbabwe are names of leaders, because the writer is trying to use from both on its own and as part of a “from . . . to” range. For the statement to make sense, the category of which the two names are examples must be specified, preceded by a preposition linking leaders with that word: “He exchanged greetings with leaders of countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.”
2. Focusing on H1-B visa reform has caught the technology industry’s attention, which has long argued that it must attract the best and most qualified workers to compete in the global marketplace.
Here, the attention of the technology industry, rather than the industry itself, is said to have argued a proposition. To properly identify who or what is doing the arguing, that entity must be mentioned immediately before the subordinate clause, as shown here: “Focusing on H1-B visa reform has caught the attention of the technology industry, which has long argued that it must attract the best and most qualified workers to compete in the global marketplace.”
3. Companies should follow a common privacy framework such as the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Privacy and Security Framework for Electronic Exchange of Individually Identifiable Health Information.
Take care not to overwhelm the reader with excessively long, complex strings of words in proper names. Here, a standard developed by a federal agency is treated as if the agency’s name is part of the standard’s designation. A simple (but scarcely more effective) solution is to use the possessive form of the agency’s name. Better yet, treat the connection of the agency’s name to the standard as a subordinate clause: “Companies should follow a common privacy framework such as the Privacy and Security Framework for Electronic Exchange of Individually Identifiable Health Information, a standard developed by the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.”
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