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I am writing a statement of purpose and I wasn't sure how to structure the following sentence.

Here is the context: I talked to the professor in charge of the program and he told me that an approach that would be interesting to explore. I want to mention this in my statement. Which one of the following is correct/better?

Another approach Dr. Smith mentioned that is worth exploring was ...

Another approach Dr. Smith mentioned is worth exploring was ...

Another approach Dr. Smith mentioned worth exploring was ...

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  • 1
    (It's ironic that I corrected your question text for a mispositioned "that" before reading the full text and realising you were asking about the use of "that" anyway! :) Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 12:49
  • Do you mean that Dr. Smith mentioned multiple approaches, not all of which were worth exploring (which 1 suggests), or that you have a number of approaches, and the one(s) suggested by Dr Smith is/are worth exploring? Either way, I feel a rewrite is required.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 13:15
  • Is the 'is' in version 2 supposed to be 'as'? If so, that version would be my choice.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 14:50

2 Answers 2

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I don't think you can use is with mentioned: "mentioned" puts the action in the past, and while the worthiness of exploring it might extend into the present, it's not idiomatic usage. I would expect was here instead of is.

Thus you would have

Another approach Dr. Smith mentioned that was worth exploring was ...
Another approach Dr. Smith mentioned was worth exploring was ...

[FumbleFingers has explained how the second version above is strictly ungrammatical and might not be used in a formal statement. However, it is idiomatically used.]

Notwithstanding whether your option 3 is grammatical or not, I believe it's reduced to the point of being unclear: I think that copula is needed.

You might consider as:

Another approach Dr. Smith mentioned as worth exploring was ...

Again, this is idiomatic: as usually creates a simile, but OED has this usage as B.I.3a

3a. Without antecedent as or so, giving emphasis or absoluteness to the attribute or qualification.

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  • Actually, now I look at this again, it occurs to me that #2 is "syntactically valid". It's easier to parse that one if we include another that before "Dr Smith" - another approach that [Dr. Smith mentioned is worth exploring] is... As opposed to [another approach Dr. Smith mentioned] that was worth exploring was... I think both is and was work there, but it has to be the same tense in both instances (on the other hand, we don't seem to be obliged to stick to mention + is or mentioned + was). Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 17:21
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OP's version #2 is syntactically invalid. You can either have that is or (nothing) between the subject noun phrase ending at ...mentioned and its associated verb phrase starting at worth.... You can't just have is on its own, because that conflicts with the "real" verb starting at worth.

This is a context where that [is] is optional, so both #1 and #3 are syntactically valid. It doesn't particularly help that we've only got a text fragment to "try it on for size", but my "style advice" is that OP should include that as a courtesy to the reader (it makes the text easier to parse).

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  • Is there an ambiguity which would affect the tenses and syntax? The answers seem to assume that Dr Smith both mentioned the other approach and thought it was worth exploring. But when I read the OP my first instinct was to hear "Dr Smith mentioned another approach and (now that I reflect) I consider it is worth exploring." Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 20:15
  • I think you'd need much more wholesale rephrasing that we've been considering so far, to 100% unambiguously convey whether it's Smith or the current writer who thinks / thought it worth exploring. But as ever, I stand to be corrected on that. Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 4:15

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