Friday, January 27, 2006

False ranges

John McIntyre explains the concept of false ranges, with examples, and points out why such constructions are errors:
What is the continuum on which one can place the Dalai Lama and M. Scott Peck, Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's disease, Black Sabbath and Franz Ferdinand? The construction the writers could have used more precisely is that these authors, diseases, performers, topics, whatever are as diverse as.
Once you start looking for false ranges, you'll see them every day; there's no avoiding them.

The ranges that work have a definite starting and stopping point -- from A to Z, from 1 to 92, from Seattle to Miami. In more conceptual ranges, the points are less obvious and oftentimes less effective but may still work in context -- from Mother Theresa to Ted Bundy, from Death Valley to Duluth.

But, as John points out, listing random bands or diseases, topics or writers points out nothing but their diversity -- sometimes not even that. (In such cases, it's best to go with "including" instead of "as diverse as," if the examples are needed at all.)


At 2:18 PM, January 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I change it in copy at least once a week, and I cringe when others let it slip past. It's one of the laziest crutches writers use.

At 1:37 AM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Clay W. said...

Argh. Good point, and one I was introduced to in Tampa. You're right, once you know about them, the damnable things are everywhere.

At 11:23 PM, February 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AP had a good one on Feb. 10 in describing the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics:

Italian influences took a temporary reprieve during the long procession of some 80 countries — chest-thumping American dance music from soul to disco accompanied the jubilant throng, from "YMCA" by the Village People to "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.


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