More Than Grammar


We often respond to questions on Yahoo! Answers. The article below is adapted from one of those responses. 

Question: Can Someone Check My Grammar?

“There are several factors account for cultural diversity in Europe such as geographical, historical, and religion that prevent the growth of any single homogenous style in the region. The geographical distribution has formed boundaries within the different ethnic groups. Separated by their identity and ideologies, their music has become a signifier of their distinction.” 

Answer: This passage is a mess, but the problems go beyond grammar. Let’s look at the sentences one at a time and see how they can be improved. 

First, here is the summary of problems we will fix.

  • Spelling
  • Sentence subject
  • Excessive words
  • Parallelism
  • Word choice
  • Dangling modifier
  • Number agreement
  • Punctuation/Comma 

Sentence One

“There are several factors account for cultural diversity in Europe such as geographical, historical, and religion that prevent the growth of any single homogenous style in the region.”

1. Spelling: Homogeneous

2. Subject: “There” always makes a crummy subject for a sentence. Avoid it. Instead, start with “Several factors account….”

3. Punctuation/commas: The expression “such as geographical, historical, and religion” is a disruptor, i.e., it interrupts the main idea you are communicating. It needs to be separated from the main sentence with commas: “…in Europe, such as geographical, historical, and religion, that prevent….”

4. Excessive words: “Single” and “homogeneous” are redundant. If the region has a single style, it has a homogeneous style, and vice versa. Choose one. We prefer “single” because it is a simple word.

5. Parallelism: “Geographical” and “historical” are adjectives. The third item in this series, “religion,” is a noun. All three need to be the same part of speech to make this series parallel. Because you are using these as examples of “factors,” which is a noun, use nouns for the series items: “geography,” “history,” and “religion.” 

Sentence Two

“The geographical distribution has formed boundaries within the different ethnic groups.”
1. Word choice: You can’t have boundaries “within” groups—you have boundaries “between” groups. (Note: “between” is correct here, not “among.” Each boundary is between one group and one other group.)

2. Excessive words: The word “different” is unnecessary. The use of the plural for “ethnic groups” already indicates that multiple, i.e., different, groups exist. 

Sentence Three

“Separated by their identity and ideologies, their music has become a signifier of their distinction.”

1. Dangling modifier: The implied subject of “Separated by their identity and ideologies” is “they.” The subject of “their music has become a signifier of their distinction” is “music.” Because the subject of the introductory phrase isn’t the same subject as the main sentence, the introductory phrase is a dangling modifier. Both need the same subject. You could use “they” for both, as in “Separated by their identities and ideologies, they have distinct musical styles.”

2. Number agreement: Each group has its own ideology, so you correctly used the plural for “ideologies.” However, each group also has its own identity, so you also need the plural “identities.” 

Final Result

When we take care of all these issues, we get the following improved passage: 

“Several factors account for cultural diversity in Europe, such as geography, history, and religion, that prevent the growth of a single style in the region. The geographical distribution has formed boundaries between ethnic groups. Separated by their identities and ideologies, they have distinct musical styles.”
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1 Comment

Filed under Writing

One response to “More Than Grammar

  1. Laura

    Wow. Great job with editing and explanations. It’s far more than the writer deserved! Now if you’d just edit the rest of Yahoo, I’d be very grateful (but I’d have nothing to blog about).

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