Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Quick, Writerly Grump

     Mostly, I skate past other nonfiction writers’ sins. However, there’s one that has always irked me and always will: the non sequitur.

     A non sequitur consists of the yoking-together of two bits of information that have nothing to do with one another. Why do “they” do it? Unclear. Yet it seems to be endemic among journalists and commentators in our time. However, that will not prevent me from calling them out for it when the irritation gets to be too much.

     Here’s a recent case:

     An occupational therapist at Conemaugh Hospital, she is the quintessential suburban, white, female voter.

     What does the first clause have to do with second? Nothing. Why jam them into the same sentence? Probably, the writer had meant to mention the subject’s occupation in a previous sentence, but was writing swiftly and was unwilling to halt her progress for the required revision.

     Well, a physicist by education and an engineer by trade, I get damned sick of such inane constructions. They muddle. They misdirect. They imply causal connections that don’t exist. And they indicate that the writer puts a low priority on expressive elegance.

     Watch for them in your expository writing – and deal them a quick and unsparing death.

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