The Name Is Not the Thing
Writers sometimes have difficulty differentiating in their syntax between something and its name. Here are some examples of this type of error, with explanations and solutions.
1. “The cartoon series is so inspired by the city that all characters are local street names.”
Here, the writer attempts to explain that names in the cast of characters of a television series were selected by going through a list of streets located in the city in which the series is set; this decision exemplifies the extent to which the city inspired the program. This can be stated more simply with just a slight correction of the original sentence: “The cartoon series is so inspired by the city that all characters are named after local streets.” The following variation is even closer to the writer’s wording but is repetitive and less elegant: “The cartoon series is so inspired by the city that all characters’ names are local street names.”
2. “What is a BNP? This relatively new blood test, which stands for ‘b-type natriuretic peptide serum,’ measures the level of a hormone released when the heart chambers stretch larger than normal.”
This writer makes the mistake of implying that the blood test is an abbreviation for “b-type natriuretic peptide serum.” But it is BNP, the preceding initialism for the test, not the test itself, that represents the full name, and that distinction must be explicit: “What is a BNP? This relatively new blood test, the initials for which stand for “b-type natriuretic peptide serum,” measures the level of a hormone released when the heart chambers stretch larger than normal.”
3. “They created an Advisory Committee on the Protection and Use of Sandy Point.”
This wording implies that creation of advisory committees on the protection and use of Sandy Point is a regular occurrence, and that this was just another instance of that commonplace event. The sentence should avoid this minor but distracting confusion by referring to creation of a generic entity that is then named: “They created a body called the Advisory Committee on the Protection and Use of Sandy Point.” Alternatively, assuming that the revision fits the context, the sentence might read something like, “To that end, they created the Advisory Committee on the Protection and Use of Sandy Point.”
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