Structure

Day 16: smidgins of joy

Scrambled smidgins of linguistic joy.

My one endearing thread of joy today comes from being able to discern where exactly the actual message is among all the guff of a 66-word sentence written in English by a Portuguese native.

Everything that is green, underlined and highlighted in grey is the main clause. All the other colours that follow the first bit of green are detail that an English person can only process once they have read the second bit of green.

Graphic representation of a sentence: green is the main clause.

This is why non-native English texts need a revisor who knows the native language of the writer. Quite simply, it is to rid the text of WTF moments.

In the above graphic representation, the first WTF moment is when an English person reads the yellow bit. Because that’s pretty much where the English reader absolutely needs the next piece of the puzzle for the sentence to make sense. If it’s not there, confusion begins.

When this sentence is in Portuguese, a Portuguese person has no WTF moments at all. Because the structure matches the language.

As soon as someone imposes the structure of one language (in this case, Portuguese) on another (in this case, English), you get message failure, also known as a WTF moment.

And there you thought editing was all about spelling, grammar and punctuation. It is about those things, but only after you have sorted the structure out and removed the WTF humps in the road.

So, here’s an approximation of the sentence, now edited and WTF-free:

English mostly prefers bipartite structures, or a series of them.

©2019 Allison Wright

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