Monday, October 26, 2009

Omitting verbs usually reduces clarity (1)

At the general store in the small town where I live, there is a bulletin board for advertisements. Today I noticed that the local sawmill had posted an ad seeking an employee to cut and split firewood.

The ad had been neatly desktop-published. The creator of the ad had written this in the right-hand margin with a thick black marker: “Woman Included.”

The owner of this sawmill is widely known and respected for offering generous benefits packages. But I think he has gone too far this time, offering to supply a woman as a benefit.

Although I am not a lawyer, I suspect that it would be involuntary servitude and therefore a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Perhaps the advertisement should have read like this:

We will consider both male and female candidates for this position.

The Takeaway: It’s nice to be concise. But it’s risky to omit all verbs from your sentences.


  1. It's interesting how our brains naturally leap to the intended meaning rather than the unintended one.

    I recently passed a body shop with the following slogan: "Hit a deer? Fix it here!" Now, the only possible antecedent of "it" is "deer," which most body shops can't fix. However, contextually, we understand that body shops fix cars, and people who hit deer do so with cars, so we leap to the right conclusion.

  2. Excellent post. Thanks for all the helpful grammar tips.