Jumbled Constructions

The terms listed in the heading to this page refer to problems in the logical relationships between the elements of structural backbones.

ERROR: The possible reaction of the audience is the first step in planning flea choreography. [The main words of the structural backbone are reaction.. is.. step. But audience reaction can’t be a step in planning; the writer needs a word that refers to an activity that the choreographer can actually carry out (an error called faulty equation).]

The first step planning flea choreography is estimating possible audience reaction.

ERROR: The price of those piranhas is too expensive. [Since price is equivalent to expense, this is like saying that the expense is too expensive.]

The price of those piranhas is too high.

Those piranhas are too expensive.

In the following example, the writer has begun with one construction and then has shifted to another:

ERROR: One problem with fleas is when they don’t listen in rehearsal. [The completer of a linking verb (in this case, is) must be a noun or an adjective; it can’t be the adverb clause when they don’t listen in rehearsal.]

One problem with fleas is their unwillingness to listen in rehearsal.

The problem with the fleas developed when they refused to shimmy. [Now the “when” clause modifies the finite verb developed.]

The following error resulted perhaps from a misunderstanding of the-meaning of setting:

ERROR: The setting of the novel takes place on Mars. [Takes place refers to an event or action; a setting is a place—we wouldn’t say that a place takes place.]

The action of the novel takes place on Mars.

The setting of the novel is Mars.

The novel is set on Mars.

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