Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to improve writing (no. 35)

My son Ben sent me something in need of improvement, from a New York Times article about sauropods:

Nothing in the dinosaur world was quite like the sauropods. They were huge, some unbelievably gigantic, the biggest animals ever to lumber across the land, consuming everything in sight. Their necks were much longer than a giraffe’s, their tails just about as long and their bodies like an elephant’s, only much more so.
As Ben asks, “What does it mean to have a body like an elephant’s, ‘only much more so’?“

More so can provide a nice comic effect. Imagine Ralph Kramden speaking to Alice: “You’re exactly like your mother, Alice, just like her — only more so!” But in the sauropod sentence, the phrase makes no sense: a sauropod can resemble an elephant to the extent that it does, not more so. My guess is that “much more so” here means “much larger.”

[This post is no. 35 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose. Thanks, Ben!]

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comments: 2

Perry said...

Huh? Elephant have extremely short tails considering their great bulk.

Michael Leddy said...

“Their necks were much longer than a giraffe’s, their tails just about as long”: their tails were as long as a giraffe’s tail.