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What's wrong with this sentence?

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Hey, editors (and anyone else who reads this), I?m going to show you a sentence from something that I recently edited. It?s part of the narrator?s description of a series of pool games in which he and his partner were competing against another pair of players.

What, if anything, would you change in the following sentence?: After four games, we were ahead by one.

Maybe I?m just dense, but I?m in good company. Only Eric of our crew spotted the problem, and all of them read that chapter before I sent it back to the author. I had read that sentence several times without catching the error, but Eric saw it the first time and only he read it. He said, ?Dude, you gotta change that. It?s dumb!? So, I changed it, saving myself some embarrassment.

You guys will probably see the problem immediately, but I let it slip right past me.


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What, if anything, would you change in the following sentence?: After four games, we were ahead by one.

From a readability standpoint you're missing a word: one WHAT? (game, point, etc). If the reader can't clearly figure it out, then it's not good. There is no technical fault with the sentence though.

From a technicality, I'd have missed it too but VWL caught it. There's no way I'm that good of an editor :)

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Depending on the game, basketball, baseball or soccer for instance, the meaning is clear to someone who is familiar with the jargon of the game. Someone who is not might be lost.

I think that VWL and WBS are right. Add the word game and it should clear up any confusion.

The New Orleans Saints (3-8 ) are so far behind the Carolina Panthers (8-3) in the divisional standings that they'll be hard pressed to catch them anytime this decade. :sad5:

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Aaron did state it was in the context of a series of pool games. I interpreted this as games on a pool table, (aka billiard or snooker table), rather than games in a pool. Given it was only one sentence extracted from a larger story, I went for the logical option rather than the perverse one.

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Thanks for your replies. I'm glad vwl posted only 19 minutes after I presented the problem. That slowed Eric's bragging. :D

I could have made the situation more clear to you by explaining that the four guys are playing 8-ball on a pool table. The winning team will be the one that wins the most games. The number of games played is not relevant at that point, so I changed that number to three, making it possible for one team to be ahead by one.

Thanks again,


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What, if anything, would you change in the following sentence?: After four games, we were ahead by one.

I'm not an 'editor', but as far as clarity is concerned your sentence is fine. It is not a sentence that can be used outside of an appropriate context, but the word 'one' in the sentence refrences back to the last noun, 'game', making the sentence clear. You are writing for an english-speaking audience, most of whom will know the meaning of the sentence and that 'one' refers to the number of games you are ahead.

I think the problem with adjusting a sentence like this is that you have to view it in context. If the sentence is isolated it is not clear on any level.


PS- I think that my message is clear, but if it isn't I'm sure there is someone that can figure it out, right?

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What, if anything, would you change in the following sentence?: After four games, we were ahead by one.

To me, it's not so much a mistake as it is simply an ambiguous sentence. Ahead by one what? One game, or one point? I'd have to see it in context to understand it.

I absolutely abhor ambiguity in writing. Express a complete thought, and make it clear, epecially when it's something arcane (like sports) or technical, on a subject the audience might not understand.

So in this case, I'd say, "After four games, we'd won two, lost one, and tied for the last one. The final match would make or break us." No ambiguity there.

I have no clue on pool, so if it's billiards, I'd have to read a Dummies guide and learn enough terminology that I could at least fake it on the page. I know absolutely zip about football, but I did enough research to bluff my way through the team scenes in ANGEL. My readers seem to think I pulled it off, though a couple of readers spotted some minor gaffes (like a quarterback running his own touchdown, which is extremely rare). But it worked for the story, so screw 'em.


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Eagle Eyes Eric, huh? -- I'm embarrassed to admit, I probably would've passed over that, thinking that it meant "ahead by one [ game ]." I would've been unlikely to think of the "game versus points" ambiguity; I might've, if I was "on top of my game." -- Very, very good catch. -- So don't feel dumb for not catching it.

...Though I'd recommend against playing catch with billiard balls....

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As I see it, it would not be possible to be ahead by one game after four are played. The only possible scores are; 4/0, 3/1, 2/2,1/3, 0/4.

If you were talking about points per game then you would have to award different points for each game. The only way I can see that would allow a one point advantage after four games is if Game 1=1 point, game 2=2 points, game three = 4 points and game 4= 8 points. I f you double the ponits awarded per game, one person could win the first three, ending up with 7 points. The second person could win the fourth game for 8 points and then be ahead by one point after four games.


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Aha, the *real* reason why Eric and vwl caught it as an obvious error.

Lesson: Editors need to get out more!

I wonder how many editors know sports? -- Though as Codey pointed out, that's as much basic math as sports, and hey, even editors must play pool once in a while.

I was going to make a rather obvious and dumb joke about gay editors, bookworms, and being picked last for sports, but, meh, it's too obviously stereotyped.... Besides, there are guys like Eric and Trey who are *good* at sports.

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