Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Illogic (2).

Illogic (2). Today: Illogical Comparisons. This lapse occurs commonly in locutions such as “as large if not larger than,” which, when collapsed, becomes “as large than”; properly, one writes “as large as if not larger than.” Similar problems occur with classes of things. For example, when members of classes are being compared, a word such as “other” must be used to restrict the class: “Representative democracy is better than any [other] political system in the world.” Another problem of comparison occurs when the writer forgets the point of reference in the comparison: o “Like many others in Los Angeles, the quake helped Mr. Becker decide to leave.” “Deciding to Escape Los Angeles,” N.Y. Times, 18 Feb. 1994, at A10 (photo caption). This is a fine dangling modifier: the quake joined many others in L.A. in persuading Mr. Becker to leave. o “Significantly, although industrial relations is regarded as more important than when the survey was last conducted, in September, it does not rate in the top 10 most dominant issues.” Michael Gordon, “Voters Swing Back to ALP on Issues,” Weekend Australian, 20-21 Jan. 1996, at 1. Insert the word “now” after “important.” Otherwise, it seems as if you’re comparing “industrial relations” to a given time. In fact, we’re comparing the importance of the issue then and now. Next: More Logic Problems. For more information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “A good two-thirds of the political editorials that are inflicted upon a gullible public follow the warm imagination or the hidden desires of the writer, and let logic and truth go hang. Such writing is often skillful, but it is seldom in any sense good.” Henry Seidel Canby, Better Writing 29 (1926).
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