Thursday, July 20, 2006

A case for using the conjunction

Two stories today remind us that conjunctions, including the conjunctive that, are not always bad things to be excised from copy.

From an AP story on the House's failure to overide Bush's veto of stem cell legislation:

Supporters said the bill would have allowed research on embryos conceived during a fertilization process that would otherwise have been discarded.

Sure, the reader probably will untangle that, but how much clearer and quicker to read would it be had the conjunction been included:

Supporters said the bill would have allowed research on embryos conceived during a fertilization process and that would otherwise have been discarded.

Our second exhibit comes from a local paper's story about MySpace:

She showed me a calendar that lets users keep track of their day. But she cautioned any MySpace member can view it.

The problem with "warn" and "caution" is that they can be both transitive, taking an object (she warned him) and intransitive, with an indirect object (she warned (me) he would be there). Because we tend to drop the pronoun in that second construction, the conjunctive that can make things a whole lot clearer:

She showed me a calendar that lets users keep track of their day. But she cautioned that any MySpace member can view it.

Conjuctions - good and good for you.

2 Comments:

At 8/9/06, 10:59 PM, Anonymous Tolovemoon said...

I want to know if I use words that describe what that is, then is the sentence still considered a subordinating conjunction?
Why do some writers and teachers dislike the word that?

 
At 8/10/06, 12:01 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

"That" is unneeded in 80 percent to 90 percent of constructions. It's simply surplus baggage. It is not necessary in most cases, for instance, to use "said that" or "say that" -- the "that" adds nothing.

"That" can be one of several parts of speech -- pronoun, adjective, conjunction or adverb -- depending on usage. So without the exact sentence, it's hard for me to say what its function would be within.

 

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