So, I wrote this short paragraph in another SE site:

Despite what was feared by what was known as the surveillance threat on freedom of the 2010's, none of the world great nations became a police state. Civil rights organizations had "won" several battles that assured guarantees on individual freedom and privacy in the 2020's.

The wording of the first phrase is sounding too bad to me, probably because I am violating some grammar rules due to my first language being derived from Latin.

How can I better phrase the text above? What grammar rules did I break, if any?

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  • @Mrt - I think you mean "Although people were concerned..." – stangdon Apr 25 '16 at 15:28
  • @stangdon correct. it is a typo so I will delete tthe comment – Mrt Apr 25 '16 at 15:33
  • The use of an apostrophe to refer to a decade is old-fashioned. I highly suggest using the 2010s and the 2020s. – Alan Carmack Apr 25 '16 at 16:10
  • Reading this part Despite what was feared by what was known as the surveillance threat on freedom of the 2010's, I asked myself: can a threat fear something? I think you meant something more like Despite what was feared which was caused by .... In any case, it sounds somewhat clumsy to me. – Damkerng T. Apr 25 '16 at 17:00

I guess that you are concerned about the use of "what was" twice. You can get rid of both of them like this:

Despite fears of the so-called surveillance threat to freedom...

It should probably be "have won" rather than "had won", which would imply that it was completed before the main time event, but there isn't one.

  • What is known as is not so-called. So-called is perjorative. – Lambie Apr 27 '16 at 19:58
  • @Lambie, did you mean pejorative? If so, can you justify that statement? Here is a dictionary definition: there is no mention of pejorative: the first meaning is probably appropriate and the second meaning is definitely appropriate. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/so-called – JavaLatte Apr 28 '16 at 19:33
  • Yes, it was a typo, I was going too fast. The so-called treaty, for example, is not very nice. It means it is not really a true treaty. That is not the same meaning as: what is known as or known as. There's a TV show called: My So-called Life. In other words, the person has no life or a pretty bad life.... – Lambie Apr 28 '16 at 19:43
  • @Lambie, if you read the definition that I quoted, you will see that it does not suggest "not very nice" or "pretty bad". At worst, it suggests that the associated term is not appropriate. That fits quite well in the context, which suggests that the feared "surveillance threat to freedom" never materialized. – JavaLatte Apr 29 '16 at 6:16

You didn't really break any grammar rules. The text is understandable.

But how about these possible changes

Despite fears in the 2010's of surveillance threats on freedom, none of the world great nations became a police state.

There were probably several different types of surveillance being carried out.

Later in the 2020's, civil rights organisations were able to "win" several battles that guaranteed individual freedom and privacy.

Shows a transition from the 2010's to the 2020's, and placement of dates is parallel in both sentences.

  • My real problem is that the sentence structure seems much more like something out of a Roman language than english. Thought processes and stuff, you know. Thanks a lot for your explanation. – Mindwin Apr 26 '16 at 11:56
  • Romance language, not Roman language. – Lambie Apr 27 '16 at 19:54

Despite the fears in the twenty-tens about by what was referred to as the surveillance threat to freedom, none of the world great nations became a police state.

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