Awkward Phrasing Exercise (494)

Revise each sentence below to improve clarity.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Does taking a bath or a shower use less energy?
Correct : Which uses less energy: taking a bath, or a shower?

The original sentence implies that "taking a bath or a shower," representing a single choice, will be compared to another choice, described in a phrase tacked onto the end of the sentence, such as "than heating water on a stove top and bathing in a wheelbarrow." But taking a bath and taking a shower are the (only) two choices and must be distinctly expressed as such.

2.
Original: Our Thanksgiving celebration is different from the Pilgrims.
Correct : Our Thanksgiving celebration is different from the one the Pilgrims celebrated.

The original sentence implies a comparison of modern celebration of Thanksgiving with the colonists known as the Pilgrims. The statement should clearly refer to two distinct celebratory traditions. The simple error is that "Pilgrims" should be possessive, but a better solution is to complete the thought, clearly expressing the comparison as shown in the revised version.

3.
Original: Don’t accept a request for a second date if you don’t feel a connection to the other person; it’s a waste of both your time.
Correct : Don’t accept a request for a second date if you don’t feel a connection to the other person; it’s a waste of time for both of you.

"Both your time" is a clumsy abridgement of the intended meaning, which should be explained in full.

4.
Original: Last year, 17 percent of high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes, known as vaping.
Correct : Last year, 17 percent of high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes, a practice known as vaping.

The wording of this sentence muddles the explanation, implying that "vaping" refers not to using e-cigarettes but to the e-cigarettes themselves; the wording should be unambiguous.

5.
Original: The North Korean official criticized the film but disputed his government hacked Sony and orchestrated the movie’s shutdown.
Correct : The North Korean official criticized the film but disputed the assertion that his government hacked Sony and orchestrated the movie’s shutdown.

"That" is sometimes optional, but here, its omission confuses the reader, who may get the initial impression that the North Korean official disputed his government. The sentence should also be revised to clarify that the assertion of the action, not the action itself, is being disputed.

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