Complete sentences vs. fragments

  • A little coherence and evidence of intellectual activity from the presidential candidates — is that too much to ask?

David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post, noted the following about this week’s presidential debate in Nashville:

Is it “presidential” to speak in clear sentences that have a beginning, a middle and an end? If so, we heard a very presidential Barack Obama in tonight’s debate — a man who was fluid and precise in explaining his policies and in critiquing those of his opponent.

John McCain, in contrast, seemed stiff and uncomfortable, explaining himself in sentence fragments and jokes and gests that didn’t quite register. He looked awkward whether he was standing or sitting, and his speech was that of a man who wants to chide his opponent and assert his own fitness for office — but can’t explain himself or his policies in clear language that forms complete sentences and paragraphs — or even complete thoughts.

Or am I being elitist, in arguing that case for coherence?

I, for one, don’t think it’s elitist. Well, maybe it is. So what’s wrong with that. Some of us still value coherence and think it’s a sign of intellect.

And speaking of intellect, see also David Brooks’ column in the New York Times today.

And, while we’re talking English, watch Kitty Burns Florey (Slate) try to diagram Sarah Palin’s sentences — and fail.

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Jim Stovall, (JPROF.com) a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self-publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker, and beekeeper -- among other things. Subscribe to his weekly newsletter at http://www.jprof.com .
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