0

Example:

Using unsupported Windows versions is highly discouraged, more specifically Windows XP, and Vista after April 2017.

Now there is an ambiguity with whether "after April 2017" refers to only Windows XP or also Vista. The comma does not help much, after all one might be following the comma rule for lists where it's always used.

So one could write:

Using unsupported Windows versions is highly discouraged, more specifically Windows XP. After April 2017, this includes Windows Vista.

But this seems unnecessarily overblown to me.

So I'm wondering if it would be valid to write the following?

Using unsupported Windows versions is highly discouraged, more specifically Windows XP, and after April 2017, Windows Vista.

If not then at least in spoken language?

1

Your sentence is totally valid, both written and spoken. I don't think there's any better way to rephrase this sentence, actually.

In spoken English, I do think most native speakers would tend towards using the sentence structure of your first example, but ambiguity is less of an issue in spoken language because you can use context and intonation to figure out the meaning. In written language, your sentence would definitely be the best option, though.

As a side note, the original sentence doesn't even seem grammatically correct to me. I can't figure out what the purpose of that comma is, and I think it actually makes the meaning of the sentence more confusing.

  • The comma was there to further drive home that "after April 2017" only refers to latter and not former in the list. Also, I was thinking of the serial (AKA Oxford) comma but apparently this would only apply in lists with at least three elements. – phk Dec 11 '16 at 0:38
  • And I personally don't like the solution very much, it looks like a broken insertion and additionally the it goes against common English sentence order where you would put place/time at the end (a rule which I normally despise though). – phk Dec 11 '16 at 0:41
  • Perhaps it sounds improper to a non-native speaker, but what you call a "broken insertion" is actually used very frequently when speaking and especially when writing, even formally (it's called a subordinate clause). While we generally put the time/place at the end of our sentences, you are allowed to put it at different points in the sentence as long as it's marked off with commas. It's just as correct to say "At the beginning, I did not know" as it is to say "I did not know at the beginning". – williamlue929 Dec 11 '16 at 1:52
  • You're not totally wrong, though. Using subordinate clauses like that too often or in the wrong place can make sentences more choppy and confusing. But, in many cases (such as in your original post), changing the arrangement of your sentence can make your meaning more clear. – williamlue929 Dec 11 '16 at 1:59
  • Thank you, I read up on it and apparently it's an essential relative clause here where you normally wouldn't use a comma but I guess here you have to prevent ambiguities. And with "insertion" I meant a parenthetical statement. – phk Dec 11 '16 at 2:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.