Case 2: Reader forced to re-read long sentence

13th December 2001

Filed by: Officer Taylor

The Offence

Another Telegraph football report, this on Chelsea's Worthington Cup match at home to Newcastle on Wednesday 12th December 2001. Their report says:

Andy O'Brien had squandered two late, headed chances for Newcastle when substitute Boudewijn Zenden crossed from the left and Hasselbaink stretched out his right foot to divert the ball beyond goalkeeper Shay Given.

The Verdict

The reporter is trying to tell us that after Andy O'Brien had squandered two late chances (for Newcastle), Chelsea's substitute Boudewijn Zenden crossed for his teammate Hasselbaink to score. But the only way you can tell this is if you know which teams the named players represent. At first glance, the report appears to say that Zenden's crosses from the left provided the chances which O'Brien squandered. Only towards the end of this long sentence does it become apparent that it can't be parsed this way, so the reader has to go back and read it again. Unacceptable.

This could easily have been clarified by adding the word ``already'' before ``squandered''. Or indeed by writing ``After Andy O'Brien had squandered two late chances ...'' It's hard to forgive something that would have been so easy to avoid.

The Sentence

We'd like to be lenient, but since the same report also says ``Le Saux suffered a scare after Robert Lee left an accidental boot on his head'' (a boot can't be accidental; only an action can), we're not going to be. We sentence the accused to be slapped repeatedly with a wet stick of celery.

Next case!

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