5 Cases of Premature Reference
Writers occasionally fall into the trap of inserting too much information between a verb and its object, or introducing a pronoun before the noun it refers to has appeared — in effect, alluding to the point of the sentence before specifying it. This syntactical structure isn’t wrong, but it can be annoying. Take care to use the following constructions in moderation, if at all.
1. “I have decided — and I thank you all for your input about the subject — that the policy will go into effect immediately.”
Interjecting a long parenthetical digression between a verb and the predicate is the least irritating variety of premature reference — at least the writer made it to the verb before veering off — but it might be better to express the basic statement and then tack on the additional information: “I have decided that the policy will go into effect immediately. I thank you all for your input about the subject.” (Or start with the parenthetical and continue with the basic statement: “I thank you all for your input about the policy. I have decided that it will go into effect immediately.”)
2. “The question is of whether — and, if so, to what extent — the phenomenon has an impact on climate.”
This sentence also interrupts the basic statement with an additional dimension that, in this case, itself is subjected to an interjection. Again, the parenthesis might better follow the fundamental element: “The question is of whether the phenomenon has an impact on climate, and, if so, the extent of that impact.”
3. “Whether you appreciate them or not, the devices serve a practical purpose.”
When you name something and then refer to it by a pronoun, it’s best to do so in that order: “Whether you appreciate the devices or not, they serve a practical purpose.”
4. “These earthquakes, as do most, occurred on faults near boundaries between two tectonic plates.”
This type of interruption is also distracting, and it can be solved in the same way as the first two examples: “These earthquakes occurred on faults near boundaries between two tectonic plates, as do most temblors.” Alternatively, even a slight simplification in wording reduces the distraction: “These earthquakes, like most, occurred on faults near boundaries between two tectonic plates.”
5. “The senator, as have many others, brought up the contradiction between the two laws.”
The “as have” interjection can be moved just like the “as do” parenthesis above: “The senator brought up the contradiction between the two laws, as have many of his colleagues.” Or, as before, the substitution of like for “as have” improves the sentence somewhat: “The senator, like many others, brought up the contradiction between the two laws.”
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Keep learning! Browse the Style category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
- How to Punctuate References to Dates and Times
- Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs and Heteronyms
- Particular vs. Specific
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