I just stumbled into this post, in which the blogger lists 25 lessons for graduates. Her intentions are admirable, but my eyes immediately went to #5 in her list:
5. Everyone is in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime and 95 percent of people fall into the first two categories.
Any reader of jaced.com is quite aware of my thoughts on the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma. The topic has proven to be an ideal starting point for emotionally driven verbal brawls — both online and off — and I’ve never been one to pass up the opportunity to engage in one. No matter how much shit I’ve gotten from zenny people who encourage me to chill, I still find myself proactively jumping into the pit and taking people on. I even have a blog category called Rants reserved for this purpose.
Which brings us back to the offending sentence from today. Yes, I should probably let it go, but I can’t help from pouncing on it. I mean, it is Friday. It’s also the perfect example of how horrendous a sentence can be when the serial comma is habitually omitted. So it’s just begging to be picked on.
Here’s the sentence again:
Everyone is in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime and 95 percent of people fall into the first two categories.
OK. Now. WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF SENTENCE IS THIS???
Or, more specifically, which two categories are the first two categories?
There are a few problems with this sentence, which become magnified once the writer refers to “the first two categories” that she supposedly listed for us. But where exactly does that implied list start? Sure, I can figure it out using logic and reverse-engineering, but here’s the thing:
I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO.
And THAT’s what pisses me off.
There’s no reason this sentence should be this complicated. Here’s a simpler version (my revision):
Everyone is in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. 95 percent of people fall into the first two categories.
Clear, yes? Of course it is. Crystal. I’ve listed three categories for you:
1) people who are in your life for a reason,
2) people who are in your life for a season,
3) people who are in your life for a lifetime.
When I refer to the first two categories, it’s clear that I’m talking about items 1 and 2.
Yet as originally written, the sentence almost reads (my revision):
Everyone is in your life for a reason: a season or a lifetime and 95 percent of people. Fall into the first two categories…
This the part where, as a reader, my eyes turn to pretzels and my head wants to explode.
QUESTION: WHICH TWO CATEGORIES ARE THE FIRST TWO CATEGORIES???
ANSWER: HELL IF I KNOW.
My first guess is she’s talking about season and lifetime. A computer would do the same. Nothing’s clear. We don’t even know how many categories there are in the first place. The sentence is a a disaster.
What now? Well, for starters, I’m forced to re-read the sentence two, three, four times, rearranging all the elements in my mind so that the thought makes sense to me. Granted, that may only take a split second on my part. But it’s unnecessary energy. This type of inconsiderate and presumptuous writing expects the reader to either A) be a clairvoyant or B) go back and do the writer’s work for her. Awful stuff.
In closing, I should point out that (after the obligatory chore of reconstruction) I think it’s a great little nugget of advice, even if unproven. The thought’s certainly there. But sadly, all sensibilities behind it are now in question; any person who’d look at this sentence and call it good is not somebody whose opinion I’d value. Lazy writing like this defeats the purpose of advice.
That’s it for now. I’d address the validity of her #12, but that’s a separate rant that’d probably be better suited for a year divisible by four.