Saturday, April 4, 2015

How to improve writing (no. 56)

I missed the lunar eclipse, but I caught this sentence, from USA Today :

As with all lunar eclipses, its safe to look at the moon during the eclipse, unlike during solar eclipses.
It’s safe: it is. But also: unlike during is an awkward construction. The things that are unlike are lunar and solar eclipses, not during the eclipses. Better:
It’s dangerous to look at the moon during a solar eclipse, but lunar eclipses are always safe for viewing.
Or:
Lunar eclipses, unlike solar eclipses, are safe for viewing.
On September 28, there will be another lunar eclipse to view, or miss.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

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April 5: The sentence no longer appears in the USA Today article.

[Garner’s Modern American Usage glosses unlike in as common in American and British English. Still, Bryan Garner says, “careful writers will avoid it.” This post is no. 56 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

comments: 6

Diane Schirf said...

It looks like bad keyword-driven writing.

Michael Leddy said...

So that could explain the repetition of eclipses, eclipse, eclipses?

Diane Schirf said...

It could. I wonder why it was removed.

Michael Leddy said...

I don’t think this post is to blame. My guess is that someone realized at USA Today, the writer or an editor, took another look at the writing.

Anonymous said...

"It’s dangerous to look at the moon during a solar eclipse, but lunar eclipses are always safe for viewing."

One could argue that it would be more dangerous to look at the sun (as opposed to your moon) during a solar eclipse. :)

Michael Leddy said...

Well, sure, though moon v. moon makes a certain sense. I like the other revision better: eclipse v. eclipse.