Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sydney Morning Herald, 14th December, 2010

I plodded my way through the Sydney Morning Herald again today. I am coming to the conclusion that a lot of people there think that commas are decorative items, rather than useful little things that help the reader follow the thread of the writer's thought as it unspools through a sentence.

For instance, I would have put a comma after 'average' in this passage, to avoid any initial confusion for the reader:

I also would have removed the comma after "Wallace" in this passage and replaced it with a dash:

As well, I would have recognised that bunging in a comma before "and that" was not going to help the sentence that begins "However" in this passage. What is needed is a "that" between "said" and "there":

But commas were not the only problem in today's paper (big surprise).To tell the truth, I am beginning to suspect there may be people among the Herald's sub-editors and copy-editors who are not actually native speakers of English.

Here is a passage that illustrates what I mean: 
I think most native English speakers would agree that either "support from elders" or "the support of elders" would have been better.

Similarly, an English-speaker would recognise that the tenses are pretty dodgy in the sentence beginning "Ross Adams also..." in this passage:
An English speaker would also see that an "as" outside the quotation marks - or better still an "as being" - is needed in the sentence beginning "US diplomats" in this next passage (so that it would read, still not very elegantly: 'US diplomats summarised the white paper as being "as much a ...):

They would also recognise that the sentence about Abdaly in this next passage is all over the place and would read better if recast in this way: "a picture of Abdaly as someone who enjoyed playing basketball and a good party but who had become ...":

And, as well as infelicities of grammar, a crucial piece of information went missing - shades of the Monthly - from the Herald's report on the elections in Kosovo:
Which ethnic group is alleged to have carried out the 'violent attacks'? Was it Albanians trying to disenfranchise Serbs by intimidating them or was it extremist Serbs trying to delegitimise the election by forcing less extreme Serbs to stay at home?

And, last but not least, a howling contradiction in terms was allowed to make its way into Gerard Henderson's article:

"Hippie-intelligentsia" - I would argue that no such thing exists.


  1. Yes, well spotted on all counts, in my opinion. Hippie intelligentsia? I guess anything sounds profoundly intellectual when you're high.

  2. Reading the Wikileaks bloke's thoughts on his 2006 blog, you get a flavour of hippie intellectualism: full of pretension but short on really tight argument.