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Sentencing verbosity

August 9th, 2007 by dk

It’s always sad when a writer outlives his editors. William Pfaff has had a long and productive career on the editorial page for the International Herald Tribune. He’s smart and insightful, but his sentences are often longer than the American attention span. From his most recent column:

“The proposal that U.S. forces intervene in territory where even Pakistani forces are reluctant to operate, against what would be the united opposition of the Pathan population of the Tribal Territories, who have apparently accorded bin Laden their hospitality and protection, is so absurd as to make one think that Obama and his advisers are mad.” (56 words)

Diagram that sentence, underemployed English majors, and know that dependant clauses are safe as long as Pfaff keeps tickling the typewriter.

But then today, a new extreme for unedited Pfaffery. Another direct quote:

“An attack into the Tribal Territories also would be likely to collapse the fragile government of President Pervez Musharraf, or any successor, and quite possibly split Pakistani society, inspiring ethnic nationalist passions among the 45 million Pathan people in Pakistan,

Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, engulfing both states as they now exist, and naturally redoubling the already formidable progress made by the Taliban movement among the Pathans.”

Sixty-eight words may not be a Pfaff record, but it is the first time I’ve seen a copy editor break a single sentence into two paragraphs!

If Pfaff ever retires, look for comma futures to plummet on the open market. My guess is he’ll die at his keyboard. Midsentence.

{184 – 101 = 83}

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  • 1 billthepoet Aug 16, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Maybe he’s still using Wordperfect (or Wordstar) on his KayPro computer, and runs the little utility that scores grammar level? I remember idly deleting and adding punctuation mark and performing various other language trickeration to get my scores up. Get that word count up, toss a hyphen here and a semicolon there, and you’re a college grad!