Italian Marble

I don’t subscribe to the New York Times (all my spare cash goes for dance lessons). So I’m lucky to have a friend who saves the back issues of the New York Times Magazine and Book Review for me. Of course I’m always months and months behind.

So I didn’t get around to reading the July 30, 2017 issue of the New York Times Magazine until last week. It featured an article I enjoyed reading: “The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy.” The author is Sam Anderson, and Luca Locatelli took the pictures (which are wonderful).

Not-so-wonderful is the caption under one of those pictures. Read it yourself and see what you think (for copyright reasons, I’m not posting the picture here):

Two workers who specialize in cleaning scale the cliffs of the Bettogli quarry, knocking away outcroppings and clutter that could fall and hit the quarrymen.

Clearly there’s no problem with the grammar. But working out what it’s trying to say is another matter. When I first read the sentence, I thought it was about cleaning scale:

Two workers who specialize in cleaning scale

Wait a minute! How do you clean scale? It doesn’t make sense!

I started over. When I reread the sentence, I realized it was saying something very different:

Two workers…scale the cliffs of the Bettogli quarry….

Here’s a handy writing rule for you: One idea per sentence. The more information you try to cram into a sentence, the greater the chance your readers are going to be confused.

Here’s the sentence again:

Two workers who specialize in cleaning scale the cliffs of the Bettogli quarry, knocking away outcroppings and clutter that could fall and hit the quarrymen.

Look at all the information jammed between the capital T at the beginning and the period at the end:

  • there are two workers
  • they’re cleaning
  • they’re scaling the clifs
  • they’re at the Bettogli quarry
  • they’re knocking away outcroppings and clutter
  • the outcroppings and clutter could fall and hit the quarrymen

Too much! Remember this rule: One idea per sentence.


 

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2 thoughts on “Italian Marble

  1. ballroomdancer Post author

    I love semicolons! That would have been my choice too – more elegant than two short sentences. So many people are afraid to use them – I’m glad you like them.

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