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Copy-editing question

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by Inky_Wretch, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    OK, I'm struggling with a copy editing thing. Lately everybody on staff has been writing sentences that have a tense shift after a comma. At least, it reads that way to me. Here's an example ...

    The Podunks played their best game in the fourth, winning handily 25-18.

    I changed it to ...

    The Podunks played their best game in the fourth and won handily 25-18.

    Is that the correct thing to do? Or is the first sentence structure OK and I'm wrong?
  2. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    The Podunks played their best game in the fourth and won 25-18?

    "won handily" is telling, not showing.
  3. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Yeah, yeah, this was just a sentence I threw together as an example.
  4. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Interesting question, because I've never really thought about it. I don't think it's wrong though.

    "Johnny Appleseed set a world record, besting Usain Bolt with a time of 1.2 seconds."
    "The Cleveland Browns clinched the AFC North title, finishing at 13-3."

    I think the way you rewrote it was fine, but the shift like that doesn't bother me any.
  5. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I'm way too out of practice to remember if it's technically wrong, but I just don't like it and think it sounds odd. The rewrite reads better, in my opinion.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    The change of the comma to the conjunction was a good move but almost everything else about that sentence reeks.
  7. Cullen9

    Cullen9 Member

    I see this all the time, both in my writing and other more mainstream works. I try to always keep the tense the same, but other times it just seems to flow better.
  8. dervoice

    dervoice New Member

    "The Podunks played their best game in the fourth, winning handily 25-18."

    There is no verb-tense problem in this sentence, because the word "winning" is not actually a verb but a verbal noun which is part of a phrase that's been stripped of unneeded words. There are actually two thoughts involved -- that the Podunks played best in the fourth quarter and that they won 25 to 18. I suppose strict grammatical correctness might call for rewriting the "winning handily" phrase as a separate clause or sentence in the way some of you have suggested. But the original form is so widely used and understood, it may be wise to keep it, if only as a space-saver.
  9. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I'm trying to figure out how winning is a verbal noun in that sentence or what the implied phrase is supposed to be around "winning handily 25-18." And it's certainly not both a verbal noun and part of a phrase that's been stripped of unneeded words.

    It can't be a noun for two reasons. First, your phrase would be a noun-adverb-adverb adverbial clause with an implied verb. And I can't think of a single implied verb you could put in there to make it a coherent clause. More importantly, the adverb "handily" is clearly modifying "winning," and that means "winning' has to be acting as a verb. If winning were acting as a noun, it'd have to be "a handy winning" or something like that.

    As you said, it's being used as a secondary predicate for the subject "The Podunks." Subject (did A), (did B)." To use two predicates with the same subject, you need parallel construction in the tenses of the verbs. So it's wrong.

    Two defenses for the sentence:

    1) Who the hell cares, grammar nerd, it sounds find to the ear and that's all that matters.

    2) I suppose you argue that "winning handily 25-18" is actually an adverbal phrase in the form of verb-adverb-adverb, and that it's modifying the whole sentence. That's gramatically clunky and adverbal phrases used like that are usually put at the beginning of the sentence and not the end, but it's not strictly wrong.

    But anyway, yeah, "shut the hell up forever, grammar nerd, it sounds fine to me" is probably the best response.
  10. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    The original sentence doesn't sound fine to me, which is what started this mess.
  11. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    One other way to suggest why it's acceptable: Commas can take the place of "while" or "because" when they're generally deemed as understood. Ergo, "The Podunks played their best game in the fourth quarter while winning 25-18." That makes perfect sense and is grammatically fine.

    But your changes were fine, too.
  12. dervoice

    dervoice New Member

    This looks like a good solution to the Podunk question. It's encouraging to think that sports journalists are this conversant with and interested in the details of English grammar. My impression of sports reporters in general has been that they don't all write that good but took up the profession as a way to get into games free. Often having to file stories immediately after the event without much rewriting doesn't help them dispel that image, of course. I'm sure most sportswriters will disagree with such a generality.
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