Awkward Phrasing Exercise (455)

Pick the sentence version with clearer wording.

    1.
    Selling a house is tough, find thousands of new real estate agents hoping to cash in.
    Selling a house is tough, thousands of new real estate agents hoping to cash in are finding.

    2.
    Medical mistakes kill an estimated 100,000 people a year, but it’s mostly not incompetent physicians that are to blame.
    Medical mistakes kill an estimated 100,000 people a year, but physicians are seldom to blame.

    3.
    Unlike Asian avian flu, there’s no threat to humans, just poultry exports.
    Unlike as is the case with Asian avian flu, there’s no threat to humans, but there is one to poultry exports.

    4.
    The search engine company, still very small compared to Google or Yahoo, has rebounded from the Internet implosion and is profitable.
    Still very small compared to Google or Yahoo, the search engine has rebounded from the Internet implosion and profiting.

    5.
    An online stock brokerage is only the latest of the many financial firms leaving the area for other states.
    An online stock brokerage is the latest financial firm leaving the area in droves for other states.

Answers and Explanations

1. Selling a house is tough, thousands of new real estate agents hoping to cash in are finding.
The incorrect sentence is more concise than the revision, but the use of "find" as a synonym for "conclude" is confusing; usually, in this position in the syntax of a sentence, it is a direction.

2. Medical mistakes kill an estimated 100,000 people a year, but physicians are seldom to blame.
The phrase "mostly not incompetent" is complicated, because "not incompetent" might be read to mean "competent." The sentence should be simplified, including the deletion of "incompetent," which is extraneous in this context.

3. Unlike as is the case with Asian avian flu, there’s no threat to humans, but there is one to poultry exports.
This reference to the consequence of a disease starts out awkwardly with an incomplete initial phrase. The final phrase is not incorrect, but the meaning of the sentence is clearer with more well-developed wording.

4. The search engine company, still very small compared to Google or Yahoo, has rebounded from the Internet implosion and is profitable.
Even though the search engine has been referred to in a previous sentence, beginning the sentence with a modifying phrase implies that the information is important, but it is merely a minor additional detail that should be inserted parenthetically after the subject of the sentence.

5. An online stock brokerage is only the latest of the many financial firms leaving the area for other states.
The combination of two prepositional phrases at the end of the sentence is clumsy, with a possible initial misreading that "for other states" means "for the benefit other states" rather than "to relocate in other states."

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