Sucks Syntax sentences, it seems, are written specifically to wreak havoc on the reader's sense of logic. Missing or misplaced punctuation does it, but the order of the words in a sentence can do it, too. In a previous post, I structured a sentence in a way that virtually guarantees more than one possible meaning. The sentence is still true either way and the context wasn't crucial in this case, but it's a nice, simple example of meaning due to word proximity, which is just another way of saying syntax.

One final word from the dictionary that made me laugh: Lolrus.

No punctuation to cue the reader; the syntax is all there is to go by. As it stands, the sentence would really mean something along the lines of, "I'm going to give you one last word from this dictionary, which is the dictionary that caused laughter on my part." Rearranging the word-groups a bit, I could rewrite the sentence in an attempt to shove the meaning in a specific direction.

One final word that made me laugh, from the Urban Dictionary: Lolrus.

Better, but not great. Best to get the reference to the larger, encompassing item out of the way first, and then narrow it down as I head toward the end of the sentence. If this is beginning to smell a little like Set Theory, your nose isn't far off the scent.

From the Urban Dictionary, one final word that made me laugh: Lolrus.

I like this version now, and I'm keeping it. But for discussions like this, it's useful to have some way to indicate word grouping, and one way is to use braces. I've made mine a groovy shade of teal, although they may or may not show up as exactly the same color on your end, depending on how your browser interprets such things. Anyway, going back to the original problematic sentence, I can use my braces to arrange the main ideas into groups.

{One final word} from {the dictionary} {that made me laugh}: Lolrus.

If I disassemble my original sentence according to this grouping, I can also arrange the five pieces vertically, which may make them easier to identify and work with here on the blog page.

One final word
the dictionary
that made me laugh

As you can see, I still have the same five chunks. Three of the chunks carry with them a bit of additional information, but there are five basic components: word, from, dictionary, laughing, and lolrus. (In keeping with my stubborn refusal to turn this blog into a grammar primer or otherwise technical discussion of language, I'm calling them chunks, not subjects or objects or nouns or whatever. There are lots of great language-education resources on the Web already.)

The first rewritten sentence had the same five concepts arranged in a slightly different order; the comma and addition of the word Urban don't alter these concepts in any significant way. The second rewrite uses exactly the same five chunks as the first; only the order has changed.

the Urban Dictionary
one final word
that made me laugh

Crud. One too many syllables for Haiku, but it was close. In any event, there are a lot of sentences out there that need regrouping—probably quite a few of my own, actually—but this is a simple example. I'm sure I'll run across something more complicated one of these days, something I can put to good use here. Legal documents are excellent candidates for this sort of thing. Mind bending, but excellent.


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