Sentence Snarls by taoyni


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Sherry Wynn

WRT 160: Wynn Perdue

Winter 2008

In Keys for Writers (OU Edition), rhetorical theorist Ann Raimes defines “sentence snarls” as
“structural inconsistencies [that] give readers trouble” and “make readers work to untangle the
meaning” (318). When the reader is not your composition teacher, s/he might not try very hard,
s/he might get confused, and/or s/he might give up.

        How to Avoid Sentence Snarls:

            1. Avoid the passive voice. English is a word order language. Generally, sentences
               follow a Subject + verb + object format. When the subject is absent or when it
               occurs well into an independent clause, causation is less obvious and the sentence
               will become wordier because the verb will require a helper, a “be” verb form. As
               a rule, avoid passive voice unless the subject is the doer or agent in the sentence
               is unknown or unimportant.

                Passive Voice: “The tire was changed by my husband” to “My husband changed
                the tire.”

                       “The superintendent was fired by the Board of Education” to “The Board
                of Education fired the superintendent.”

                OK:     The beavers were returned to the dam.
                        The office is cleaned each month.

            2. Resist “fuzzy syntax,” as represented by mixed constructions, faulty
               comparisons, unnecessary shifts, and tangled syntax.

                Mixed Construction: When wanting to go to the mountains might lead an
                outdoor enthusiast to call in sick.

                        Potential Correction: An outdoor enthusiast might call in sick when he
                        wants to go to the mountains.

                Faulty Comparison: Like my mom, my job does not offer adequate benefits.

                        Potential Correction: Like my mom, I have a job that does not offer
                        adequate benefits.

                Misplaced Modifier: She only likes Saab automobiles (Does she truly only like
                one thing, a car brand?)

                        Potential Correction: She likes only Saab automobiles.

                Wordy/Yucky: The reason for the loss is because the star player was sick.

                        Correction: The team lost because the star player was sick.
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                 Unnecessary Shift: I need a large home because you never know who might
                 come to stay.

                         Potential Correction: I need a large home because I never know
                         who might come to stay.

Here are some example snarly sentences and corrections:
   1. It is argued that if the drinking age was lowered that maybe young adults would handle
        alcohol more responsibly and that it would loose its “rebellious” qualities. . . . This idea is
        supported in his article by quoting Greg Wilson, a writer for the New York Daily News.”
        Untangled: The author cites The New York Daily News’ Greg Wilson, who opines
        that lowering the drinking age might prompt young adults to handle alcohol more
        responsibly because binge drinking would lose its rebel appeal.
   2. He believes by increasing the wages it will increase the amount of jobs.
        Untangled: He believes increasing wages will increase jobs.
   3. An example of this is when he describes the ironic event that a planned Congressional
        hearing in which the FDA and drug companies were supposed to address the practice of
        informing the public of all the facets of their research on a particular drug was cancelled
        when the original investigator of the problem was mysteriously moved to a new and
        better position.
        Untangled: For example, a planned congressional hearing on a contested drug’s
        review process was cancelled when the FDA investigator was mysteriously
   4. Whites had a total of 80% who were overweight according to their reported body mass
        index. Asians showed a distinguishingly low percentage of 22% overweight.
        Untangled: 80 percent of whites were overweight according to their BMI whereas
        only 22 percent of Asians were overweight; or 80% of whites versus 22% of Asians
        were overweight according to their BMI.
   5. Unfortunately, this Act which our government passed contains laws that perhaps were
        passed as a way to counter terrorism, but ended up infringing our civil liberties. . . . The
        problem with the whole issue, according to the ACLU is that the Patriot Act is unjust in
        that the proper procedure of checks and balances was not carried out by our government
        and our rights have been taken away.
        Untangled: While the Patriot Act was passed to protect citizens from terrorism, the
        ACLU maintains that the act has infringed upon our civil liberties and destroyed
        governmental checks and balances.
   6. When a student then gets into college, a handbook titled, Get Ready for College Early,
        goes into how the arts and music is a valued experience to the students by broadening
        their understanding of the world of which their in.
   7. Untangled: A handbook titled Get Ready for College Early offers college students an
        overview of art and music as a valued experience that will broaden their
        understanding of the world.
   8. When it comes to the sex education and the abstinence programs being taught to
        adolescents in school the resources and an evaluation for the curriculum being taught is
        very limited.
        Untangled: An abstinence only curriculum offers inadequate resources to
Sentence Snarls   3

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