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Cách tránh một số lỗi quan trọng – consistency – trong viết tiếng Anh – Avoiding shifts in writing English [2]

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Misfits and Bad Equations
(sometimes called “Mixed Constructions”)

Bài [2] này có một vài nội dung giống như bài [1], bổ sung thêm ví dụ minh họa.


Think of a sentence as a kind of mathematical structure, an equation requiring two parts: the subject, which is what any sentence is about, and the predicate, which is what we’re going to say about this subject. Sometimes we set up both in ways that are perfectly reasonable, separately, but when we put the two together, they just don’t fit.

Lỗi #1.   Adverb clause as subject:

Confusion Although the season has not yet begun has caused the public to get over anxious for information about the team.
Repair Work Although the season has not yet begun, the public is overly anxious for information about the team.

This sentence begins with an adverb clause, which is a legitimate way to begin a sentence, but an adverb clause can’t act as a noun; it can’t be a subject. In the repaired sentence, we’ve allowed the adverb clause to do its normal modifying work and made “public” the subject of the independent clause. This can happen with structures other than adverb clauses—like prepositional phrases.

Other examples:

Confusion Even if students’ records are lost in the shuffle of registration does not mean they will have to start the process over.
Repair Work Even if students’ records are lost in the shuffle of registration, they will not necessarily have to start the process over.
Repair Work Students do not have to start the process over if their records are lost in the registration shuffle.
Confusion By devising carefully worded forms ahead of time made the registrar’s job much easier.
Repair Work Devising carefully worded forms ahead of time made the Registrar’s job much easier.

Lỗi #2.   Prepositional phrase as subject:

Confusion In its attempt to spark sales of season tickets broke several rules about pre-season publicity.
Repair Work In its attempt to spark sales of season tickets, the basketball program broke several rules about pre-season publicity.
Repair Work The basketball program’s attempt to spark sales of season tickets broke several rules about pre-season publicity.

It is not impossible for a prepositional phrase to serve as the subject, but it’s quite rare in formal prose, and quite unlikely for this sentence. We can either allow the prepositional phrase to modify the independent clause or allow a new subject, the “basketball program,” to own the information in the prepositional phrase.

Lỗi #3.   Double start:

It is sometimes tempting to allow what we could call a “double start,” a sentence which actually has two subjects in a situation that calls for one.

Confusion The new system of student registration, we began to use it in the fall.
Repair Work We began to use the new system of student registration in the fall.

Lỗi #4.   One sentence as subject of another:

A similar source of confusion occurs with another kind of mixed construction, when we allow a complete sentence to act as the subject of another sentence.

Confusion Beginning in the fall of 1997, we began to use the system called Banner, was the responsibility of the registrar’s office.
Repair Work Beginning in the fall of 1997, we began to use the system called Banner. The Registrar’s office was responsible for this initial project.

Lỗi #5.   “The reason is because/the reason why is because”

The phrases “the reason is because” and “the reason why is because” have crept into our language in spite of their inherent redundancy. The word reason means why or because, so to create a subject-predicate equation in which the subject means the same thing as itself is redundant. Think “the reason that” and the problem is solved.

Confusion The reason they were so eager to sell tickets is because they’re trying to refurbish the old fieldhouse.
Repair Work They reason they were so eager to sell tickets is that they’re trying to refurbish the old fieldhouse.
Repair Work They were so eager to sell tickets because they’re trying to refurbish the old fieldhouse.

Two more phrases that create subject-predicate difficulty are is when and is where, especially when we’re trying to create our own definitions. A definition must consist of nouns on both sides of the equation represented by the to be verb, not a noun and an adverb clause.

Confusion Libel is when you print something that can ruin someone else’s reputation.
Confusion Libel is where you’ve printed something that can ruin someone else’s reputation.
Repair Work Libel is the publication of material that can ruin someone else’s reputation.

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