Sentence of the Week

“In polls leading up to Sunday’s vote, the referendum was split nearly 50-50, with signs lining the streets here and vans with microphones driving around and politicking for each side.”

Turkish FlagThis sentence appeared in the New York Times Monday. It refers to a referendum in Turkey on 26 proposed changes to the constitution. Interestingly, the sentence appeared in a sports story about the world championships in basketball.

Consider these issues:

  • A microphone won’t do anything unless it’s connected to a loudspeaker.  So, the writer should have chosen “loudspeaker.”
  • Signs and vans can’t politic. People can, but they’re curiously absent from this sentence.
  • Microphones can’t drive either, and at first glance, that’s how I read the sentence. In truth, the author grouped the words correctly, but the whole thing is so awkward that it just reads wrong.
  • The referendum was not split 50-50. The polls were split. The polls actually represent voters, or likely voters, or partisans or something. That detail is missing. Again, so are the people.
  • It’s passive voice. Stop it NY Times. You should know better.

So, how would you write this? Here’s my stab.

“Polls leading up to Sunday’s vote showed voters split nearly evenly. Supporters for both sides lined the streets with signs and drove vans with loudspeakers throughout the city, politicking for their cause.”


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