Here’s a quick and dirty post on the types of comprehension errors we were pointing to recently.
This sentence appeared as a teaser to this LA Times article :
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission decided Tuesday that a former police sergeant broke city rules by leaking to reporters an audio recording from his controversial stop of an actress from “Django Unchained.”
We read that the first time and got tangled up in “audio recording” and “Django Unchained” and could not figure out what that sentence was talking about.
Here’s what went through the snarky little skull when we read it:
- Why did a cop have a recording from “Django Unchained”?
- Was he involved in the movie production and pirated some copyrighted material?
- Wait – isn’t “Django Unchained” some kind of western? Why was there a cop pulling someone over in it? I know Tarantino does bizarre mashup type movies [NSFW; because Tarantino] but…
Clearly EssaySnark hasn’t seen that film.
But then it clicked: Oh!
It was a traffic stop from an actress who was IN that movie!!! So it was some kind of privacy violation! Not piracy!!
Everything fell into place.
The problem is, we saw “audio recording” and “Django Unchained” and immediately associated the two. The sentence didn’t make clear that the cop had nothing to do with the movie.
Here’s how we would’ve edited that sentence to avoid these issues:
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission decided Tuesday that a former police sergeant broke city rules by leaking to reporters an audio recording from his controversial stop of an actress
frombest known for “Django Unchained.”
These things are tricky to spot in your own writing. After all, YOU know what the sentence means. You’re the one who wrote it!
However, they can make your readers get twisted up in knots when they’re trying to figure you out.
One good way to get better at spotting these types of errors is to stop yourself when you encounter them out in the wild.
When you’re reading
TMZ the news, and you stumble on a sentence, don’t just keep reading. Stop and figure out WHY you stumbled on it. Debug it. Figure out the reason that you didn’t pick up what the writer was putting down.
If you can diagnose these issues in other people’s writing, you’ll get better at catching them in your own.