Friday, June 20, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Share Your Prepositions


‘America stays largely silent or tiptoes around the unquiet realm of race’ (Straits Times, 22 March 2008).

Wrong: America cannot stay silent around the unquiet realm of race, but it can stay silent on it. Since the verbs stays and tiptoes take different prepositions, they cannot share a single one, so we need to recast the sentence (the commas are optional):

America stays largely silent on, or tiptoes around, the unquiet realm of race.

Similarly, it would be wrong to say:

Kate loves reading and experimenting with new technology.

Rather, we should say:

Kate loves reading about and experimenting with new technology.

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