June 1, 2005

Possibly the worst sentence I've ever read in the NYT.

I was going to say something about the content of today's Tom Friedman column, but I've decided to say something about the form. Check out this sentence:
Bottom line: We urgently need a national commission to look at all the little changes we have made in response to 9/11 - from visa policies to research funding, to the way we've sealed off our federal buildings, to legal rulings around prisoners of war - and ask this question: While no single change is decisive, could it all add up in a way so that 20 years from now we will discover that some of America's cultural and legal essence - our DNA as a nation - has become badly deformed or mutated?
What we "urgently need" is an editor. Talk about "badly deformed or mutated"!


Sloanasaurus said...

I am somewhat perplexed as to how increased border security or more chicken wire around our embassies overseas erodes our National Identity. Our National Identity comes from our people who live here in America.

Sure, more people despise America aorund the world than they did say 50 years ago. But, that is an inevitable human reaction. If your going to have some obscure protest about your own ills, America is the most logical object of your protest because America is the biggest and most powerful.

If you want to protest globalization, you don't protest in front of the local hobby store, you protest in front of Wall Mart. (even though the Hobby store may sell a higher percentage of foregin made items).

The British were hated for their "unilateral" gun boat dimplomacy to eliminate the slave trade in the 1830s. Eventually, they got some 30+ nations to sign treaties ending the trade (the treaties were signed on the decks of British 74s, and also enforced by British 74s).

Even if America did all the things the left demands, it would still be hated because it would still be the biggest. Only when America declines, will people start hating the next big guy.

Gerry said...

Sadly, that looks a bit like how things I write often look.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerry: I think it looks like a lot of the writing I see on blogs. Friedman needs to fill his column, but brevity is especially appropriate on blogs. Sometimes, I get the feeling that some bloggers think they are doing better by cranking out more words, when they really need to go back over there first draft and think about how they can make everything crisp.

Gerry said...

Ha! Hopefully I keep my worst impulses in check on my blog. At least there I make a concerted effort. I was speaking more about blog comments and emails.

I get so bad that I have been tempted to remove the parentheis, semicolon, and dash keys from my keyboard until I get it under control.

craig said...

Bottom line: Two colons in the same sentence is crappy writing: even for Tom Friedman.

Bruce Hayden said...

I find that I write a lot worse in blogs and online than I do normally. And that is saying quite a bit, being an attorney.

The problem is that it takes more work to write well than to write badly. In order to write well, I have to go back and rewrite all of my subordinate clauses and the like into short sentences. Much easier to just write as I think.

Too Many Jims said...

Remember the "old days" when grammar teachers would make you diagram sentences? Could that sentence be diagramed?

Murky Thoughts said...

I didn't have trouble parsing it myself, and I think that's the crucial issue with punctuation and sentence length. If that was improper, then perhaps propriety should adapt, which it will do faster to the extent people aren't reflexively conservative.

Meade said...

Off topic but close, juxtaposed with his last paragraph, the addendum at the end of Friedman's column today gave me chuckle:

Yes, this is a bad time for France and friends to lose their appetite for hard work - just when India, China and Poland are rediscovering theirs.

Paul Krugman is on vacation.