From The Independent yesterday:
Witnesses said the dark green Toyota Avensis ran into a red light blasting loud music before stopping the car at the intersection of Lombard Street and Threadneedle Street and running off. Police are now hunting for driver.
A red light blasting music and a driverless car – make sense to you?
Sentences are made up of phrases, clauses and punctuation marks. A phrase is one word or more that forms a part of speech. A clause is a grammatical part of a sentence made up of a subject and a predicate (the part that isn’t the subject). And punctuation marks clarify the structure of a sentence. Get any of these in the wrong order or leave out any, and you force your reader to work harder than needed to understand your writing.
Broadly, in English there are five types of phrase: noun phrase, verb phrase, adjective phrase, prepositional phrase and adverb phrase. Here’s an example of each from The Independent’s report:
1. Witnesses (n)
2. said (v)
3. dark green (adj)
4. into a red light (prep)
5. now (adv)
Written in the right order, it should have read something like this.
‘Witnesses said loud music was blasting from the dark green Toyota Avensis as it ran into a red light. The car stopped at the intersection of Lombard Street and Threadneedle Street, and the driver ran off. Police are hunting for the driver.’
The article goes on.
“As soon as I left the tube, I realised something was wrong. It was complete mayhem, police were shouting at people to get back, it very confusing,” eyewitness Tony McMahon told The Independent.
Yes, ‘it very confusing’ but it needn’t be.
There are two types of clause: subordinate and main. A subordinate clause can’t make a sentence on its own.
1. As soon as I left the tube (sub)
It needs a main clause, which can make a sentence on its own.
2. I realised something was wrong (main)
But without a conjunction – such as and, or and but – it can’t join another main clause with just a comma. So that paragraph should have read something like this.
“As soon as I left the tube, I realised something was wrong,” eyewitness Tony McMahon told The Independent. “It was complete mayhem. Police were shouting at people to get back. It was very confusing.”
And it goes on.
Photographs on social media showed a car parked with one door open in the centre of Bank Junction near the Bank of England. A bomb disposal robot was also spotted at the scene.
I’ll leave that one to you. And if you spot similar gaps in other sentences, add them below.