Influence people

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tip #3 for the Business Writer


Subordinate conjunctions: handle with care
Part 3 of a 5-part series on writing well.

If you botch your use of subordinate conjunctions, you might be understood by readers. But you won't get any medals for logic.

Subordinate conjunctions are the glue that binds the independent and dependent parts of your sentences.

Subordinate conjunctions—handy words like after, because, however, until, where, whether and why—depict vital parts of reality, such as cause, sequence, timing and location.

Careless writers use subordinate conjunctions in ways that defy reason.

Here's an example (from Mobile Deals):

Tiny smartphones are selling like hot cakes these days, and HTC Wildfire S is clearly the proof of this statement, however one company who was trying too hard to prove this point is now no longer between us.

The sentence is illogical. The writer wants to tell readers:
  • Sales of Wildfire S prove the high demand for tiny smartphones.
  • In spite of the demand, one manufacturer of tiny smartphones has failed.
He should say:

As the HTC Wildfire S proves, tiny smartphones are selling like hot cakes, although one company that tried hard to prove the point is no longer with us.

A better alternative might be:

Sales of HTC Wildfire S prove the popularity of tiny smartphones, although one company that tried to milk the demand has failed.

Here's another example (from Smucker's) of the faulty use of a subordinate conjunction:

Moms and dads work hard to make sure their kids have a great start each day, but time and organizational challenges can make mornings stressful. Whether rushed or relaxed, the makers of Smucker's Snack'n Waffles brand waffles want to hear about your morning routine.

The writer's real aim is to say: 
  • Morning routines are stressful for dutiful parents.
  • Smucker's wants to learn whether yours is rushed or relaxed.
But she puts the dependent part of her second sentence in the wrong place. She should say:

Moms and dads work hard to make sure their kids have a great start each day, but time and organizational challenges can make mornings stressful. The makers of Smucker's Snack'n Waffles brand waffles want to hear whether your morning routine is rushed or relaxed.

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