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The Grammy-winning singer, 71, said that he was devastated after he heard the news that his close friend had contracted the disease shortly after his diagnosis.

Source: https://www.albawaba.com/entertainment/elton-john-recalls-last-days-freddie-mercurys-life-1220440

I would like to ask whether the native speaker finds this sentence OK in terms of the meaning. In my opinion, it suggests that Mercury was at first diagnosed and then contracted…

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Yes, there is an ambiguity here, presumably the intention that he heard the news shortly after the diagnosis. As written it could mean "contracted the disease after the diagnosis", but as this meaning is absurd there is only one way of interpreting the sentence.

The sentence could be improved with punctuation, but it should be rephrased to avoid the potential for misinterpretation.

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