If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I think formal grammar is a waste of time.
There’s a widespread belief that if you know grammar well, you’ll be able to solve every writing problem. I think that’s wrong, and I have an example for you today.
Take a look at these two sentences:
1. We need to inventory the bikes, scooters, and wagons stored in the annex.
2. We need to inventory the bikes, the scooters, and the wagons stored in the annex.
In #1, you know that everything – bikes, scooters, and wagons – is stored in the annex. But in #2 maybe only the wagons are stored in the annex – there’s no way to know.
I often hear from writers who are looking for an easy trick that will unravel a sentence problem. “If I move the comma, will that fix it?”
Usually my answer is sorry – no. Most of the time you’ll need to rewrite the sentence. Here’s my version of today’s sentence:
We need to inventory the bikes and scooters in the showroom and the wagons stored in the annex. BETTER