We in the post-secondary education business spend a great deal of time trying to teach our students to write right. It is unfortunate that they are woefully unable to do so as a result of their high school education. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, there are plenty of examples of how to write wrong to use to illustrate a point. Just this week in my Law of Business Organizations class we talked fairly extensively about the need to write simply and concisely. So it is quite opportune to see this post from Lowering the Bar:
Australian Experts Report First Known Quintuple Negative
A person whose native language is said to be English created the following sentence recently:
The grounds of appeal announced on Monday state Justice Sifris erred in not finding Mr Goldberg was wrong in failing to set aside the summonses.
A brisk debate sprung up as to whether the sentence contained five negatives or only four, but all the experts did agree that it sucked.
The sentence appeared in an article about an appeal by two Australian journalists who had been served with subpoenas requiring them to disclose sources. A magistrate (that’s Mr. Goldberg) ruled that the subpoenas were proper, and on appeal the reviewing judge agreed. The sentence above was written in an effort to explain what happened next. If you follow all the twists and turns, it seems to lead to the right place, but “the journalists say the magistrate should have quashed the subpoenas” gets you there a lot faster.
To be fair to the reporters, they were probably just repeating what lawyers told them, but still.
Scientists operating the Large Hadron Collider reported last June that they had seen evidence of a sextuple negative, but said that if this did happen it lasted only a few fractions of a second before self-destructing.
I don’t normally include another blog’s complete post in my posts here, but Kevin Underhill writes so well about bad writing that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to illustrate both bad writing and good writing at the same time.
Which brings us to another post – this one from ABAJournal.com about a melee at a high school that states, “Thursday’s ruckus began during the first lunch period when one student through a milk carton at another.” (Emphasis added.)