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Re: Seminars and English

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First, let me beg forgiveness of my English instructors wherever
they may be.  My grammatical terminology has escaped me after
only a few years.  I would divide the sentence into clauses as
shown below.

"In building a slab system, if care is used in all steps except
the use of high-quality concrete, the parking deck slab will present
a problem."

Dependent clause:  "In building a slab system,"

Modifier:  "if care is used in all steps except the use of
            high-quality concrete,"

Independent clause:  "the parking deck slab will present a

My recollection is that anything which is delimited by commas
should be a modifier of the primary (independent) clause, and
should be able to be removed from the sentence without
substantially altering the meaning.  (Speaking of run-on

The sentence, without the modifier clause, would read:

"In building a slab system, the parking deck slab will present
a problem."

This is still logically consistent, and is also grammatically
correct.  It seems the sentence is okay so far.

The modifier clause itself must be gramatically consistent,
as well.  In this case, the clause states that, should care
be used in all steps except the use of high-quality concrete,
slab problems will result.  Does this mean that care need not
be taken in the use of high-quality concrete?  Syntactically
speaking, yes, it does.  Gramatically, I believe, the sentence
should also include a preposition between "except" and "the",
such as "in".  However, I believe that such a grammatical
modification would not solve the problem, as it would alter
the apparently intended meaning of the sentence.

I believe the sentence was intended to mean that even if all
other precautions are taken, failure to use high-quality
concrete will result in parking deck problems.  However,
making the sentence gramatically correct, as suggested above,
would cause the sentence to state that care in the use of
high-quality concrete would prevent the parking deck problems,
therefore implying that careless use of high-quality concrete
would result in slab problems.  This is somewhat different from
the intended meaning that care should be taken to use
high-quality concrete.

If this sentence is the worst example, the grammar of the
writing is not the major danger, but the poor writing style is.

Just my $0.02,

(...and now, back to reading and writing proposals.  My written English
is apparently not much better than average. *sigh*)

Charles Hamilton, PhD EIT               Faculty Fellow
Department of Civil and                 Phone: 949.824.3752
    Environmental Engineering           FAX:   949.824.2117
University of California, Irvine        Email: chamilto(--nospam--at)

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