Sunday, August 03, 2008

A tangled mess

Over at the American Copy Editors Society gabfest, we've from time to time pointed out the tangled masses that come through as purported sentences, usually from the New York Times.

But the AP has a worthy entry in the sweepstakes out of today's anthrax story:

Social worker Jean Duley testified at a court hearing in Frederick on July 24 in a successful bid for a protective order from Ivins - who five days later committed suicide - that he "actually attempted to murder several other people."

You could put the Atlantic Ocean between that verb and its complement (and apparently they were having a fire sale on prepositions, too).

I know this is heresy in today's compressed, rush-rush world, but sometimes more sentences actually make the thing clearer -- and shorter. The original is 39 words. Mine, below, is 36 and avoids the added treat of journalese ("in a successful bid for"), instead making clear in plain language that she got the protective order:

Social worker Jean Duley testified at a July 24 court hearing in Frederick that Ivins "actually attempted to murder several other people." She was given a protective order from Ivins, who committed suicide five days later.

(I personally like "killed himself" instead of "committed suicide" -- less cop speak -- but whatever.)


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