What is wrong with this sentence?

Subject: What is wrong with this sentence?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 10:08:06 -0400


Shelly Kapoor wonders: <<"ABC provides the XYZ interface using which you can create folders for storing your personal card information." Specifically, what's wrong with the use of "using which". I think its incorrect, but I am not sure why that is so.>>

The problem is that there's a mental whiplash associated with the verb "using" because the author changed direction at high speed without signalling. <G> You can see how the wording misleads the reader if you modify the sentence slightly: "ABC provides XYZ using all the skills at our disposal". That's the kind of sentence structure readers expect in English, and when the sentence doesn't fit the pattern, readers have to stop, retrace their path, figure out that the sentence pattern is different, then reinterpret the new meaning.

Technically, all you need to do is add a comma before "using", since that comma signals the direction change and says "finish processing the first part of the sentence, assign a meaning to those words, now build on those words with the rest of the sentence". That solution is grammatically correct, but it ignores the more serious problem: this kind of wording is almost completely unidiomatic in modern English. Thus, even if the reader sees the comma and "slows down to take the curve", it's still not an elegant solution.

Try a simpler, more idiomatic approach: "... the XYZ interface, which lets you create..." Simple is always good in tech. comm.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
www.geoff-hart.com
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References:
What is wrong with this sentence?: From: Kapoor, Shelly

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