Thursday, March 10, 2005

The trouble with synesis

I've written before about synesis, that grammar principle that allows a seeming mismatch in things like subject-verb or noun-pronoun agreement when the strict rules of grammar conflict with the notion we are trying to get across.

But in my paper today is a good example of why we should go here cautiously. In the same story, within a few grafs:

Once Town Hall figured out that tank height was the source of the problem, they tried several fixes, all unsuccessful.

Four grafs later:

State aid is paying three-fourths of the bill, and Town Hall chipped in $50,000 from its annual $410,000 budget.

So is "Town Hall" an it or a they? Moral: Once you've chosen one form, you're stuck.

Better to use "the town" in one of the two sentences (so that we also avoid the overuse of metonymy):
Once the town figured out that tank height was the source of the problem, it tried several fixes, all unsuccessful.
Or
State aid is paying three-fourths of the bill, and the town chipped in $50,000 from its annual $410,000 budget.

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