Thursday, March 7, 2013

The uninhabited clause (15)

On this blog, I have often discussed the uninhabited clause* – a clause with a subject that is a physical thing or a concept, as opposed to a person or group of persons. For example, “Saturn is a planet” is an uninhabited clause. There is nothing inherently wrong with using uninhabited clauses. But when we use a lot of them, we exhaust and irritate our readers.


Here are the first three paragraphs of an essay titled, “Sweden: empire of governance feminism,” which appeared on the web site “A Voice for Men.” I have put the subjects of clauses in boldface.

For many of us the extremist brand of gender feminism that has permeated Swedish culture and politics came acutely into focus last year. The [fictional] YouTube video of a group of female students murdering a man reading a newspaper and their ecstatic post murder dance celebrations, revealing that exposure to and advocacy of male genderocide, [sic comma] is an accepted part of the Swedish education systems [sic for system’s] indoctrination of their [sic for its] youth, [missing copy?] “do your part.”

Letters to Australian [sic] parliamentarians including the then Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd asking for our government to expresses [sic for express] diplomatic alarm at such vilification on the basis of sex, [sic comma] fell on deaf ears [sic comical mixed metaphor]. An AVFM commentator provided a link to the Swedish documentary (with English subtitles) “The Gender War” (Könskriget) by journalist Evin Rubar, which is highly recommended viewing for anyone who has not yet seen it and interested in the truth about Swedish feminism.

The most disturbing aspect of this documentary is the confirmation that the central tenants [sic for tenets] of radical feminism have been accepted in Sweden as core political orthodoxy and all aspects of legislation and government services must adhere to it’s [sic for its] “gender correct” understanding of male dominance and oppression. (I have deleted the footnotes from this passage.)


I’m sure you can feel it. For some reason, the writer has gone out of his way to make a highly controversial topic (advocacy of murder) sound boring. He selected non-human subjects 9 out of 13 times:

brand came
that has permeated
video [the author omitted the verb]
exposure is
advocacy is
you [the pronoun is implied by the imperative mood of the verb] do

Letters fell
commentator provided
which is
who has not yet seen; is [the verb is implied] interested

aspect is
tenants have been accepted
aspects must adhere

A livelier version

By putting in more people, the writer could easily have done justice to his topic and made his essay more lively and powerful. For example, here is how the first paragraph might read:

Last year, in a fictional video, a Swedish woman murdered a man in cold blood and her friends celebrated the murder by dancing in ecstasy – illustrating how feminist women have corrupted Swedish culture and politics with their violent “gender feminism.” Even Swedish schoolteachers are advocating the murder of men.

The Takeaway: Unless you are writing about abstract topics such as metaphysics or mathematics, you should strive to include persons in most of your clauses. Otherwise, you will sound academic and boring. Intelligent readers will notice that you have worked hard to undermine your own points. At best, they will ignore you. At worst, they will distrust you.**

See disclaimer.

*My coinage, so far as I know.

**I would be afraid to do business with a man who writes this way – unless he were hiring me to improve his writing. Even then, I would ask for payment in advance.

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