Monday, May 21, 2007

NYT Editorial Makes Comma and Style Errors

This NYT editorial features the most frequent comma error, redundant commas, and most frequent style error, passive voice.

Why This Scandal Matters

Published: May 21, 2007

It has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public’s attention moves on.

The trailing adverbial “while” clause is restrictive: no comma.

. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and [until] the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.

The comma after “gone” splits compound adverbial clauses. A comma goes between two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, not between two dependent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.

They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections.

Redundant comma splits a compound verb.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so.

“Were pressured” is a passive verb that hides actor(s). Who pressured the United States attorneys? “The White House and Republican party pressured the United States attorneys…”?

The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, that they investigated important Republicans, or that they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases.

Passive verb hides the actor: Who purged the nine prosecutors? Include the subordinating conjunction “that” before each subordinate clause in a series to emphasize parallel structure.

A study by two professors, Donald Shields of the University of Missouri at St. Louis comma and John Cragan COMMA of Illinois State University, found that the Bush Justice Department has investigated Democratic officeholders and office seekers about four times as often as Republican ones.

The non-restrictive prepositional phrases identifying the two professors get commas around each prepositional phrase.

A disproportionate number of the prosecutors pushed out, or considered for dismissal, were in swing states.

The “or considered for dismissal” is the second part of the compound past-participial phrases modifying “prosecutors”: no commas.

Young operatives like Ms. Goodling were apparently allowed to hire and promote based on party membership. Political appointees cleared the way for laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters, and brought litigation to remove Democratic-leaning voters from the rolls.

Passive verb hides the actors and deprives the reader of information: “allowed” by whom”? The redundant comma after “voters” splits a compound verb.

As a result of the purge, Tim Griffin, a Republican operative and Karl Rove protégé, was installed as the top federal prosecutor in eastern Arkansas. Rachel Paulose, a 33-year-old Republican activist with thin prosecutorial experience, was assigned to Minnesota.

More pussyfooting passive verbs that hide the actor: “was installed” by whom? “was assigned” by whom?

But it also needs to insist on new leadership that will restore the department’s traditions of professionalism and impartiality, and re-establish that in the United States, the legal system does not work to advance the interests of a political party.

Redundant comma splits a compound verb.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

free webpage hit counter