Five Minute Friday: WITH
There is a particular construction I find myself using in my writing at work, and each time I do, I question if it is the best choice.
Any of you who know me will know “I question if it is the best choice” is something pretty common to my thinking.
In our work, we only have two sentences into which we have to fit enough information to give a reader the gist of the story that we are linking to, but not so much that we lose their valuable attention. It’s a balancing act. My “with” is usually an attempt to squeeze in some secondary point without spending a whole sentence on it.
I couldn’t find a perfect example (I’ll find one the minute I press “publish” on this post, I’m sure!). But this is sort of what I mean:
“UNICEF reports that 1 in every 10 Ebola virus cases in the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo involves a child younger than 5 years old, with a third of all cases being children. Children are vulnerable when they act as caregivers for people who are ill with the virus.”
There are other words that would have worked here, such as “and.”
Why do I go to “with” so much more frequently? I don’t know which is better grammatically, but (just to share my personal preference) I really dislike a sentence that has a comma, then an “and.” In this case, “… involves a child younger than 5 years old, and a third of all cases are children.”
***end of five minutes***
Maybe it goes back to Mrs. Bowen in sixth grade (she was great!) and her dogged determination to get us to memorize all of the prepositions.
Maybe it’s instinct.
I usually think, “what would sound best if I were saying it to a companion?” That’s a bit of a false equivalency, I know, because a conversation has the advantage of body language and shared enjoyment of each company going for it. Come to think of it, I would never naturally say, “I have plans in New York City this January, with two of the days committed to visiting friends.”
I would be more likely to say, “I have plans in New York City this January and two of the days involve visiting friends.”
I think it’s the comma before an “and” that strikes me as less-than-elegant.
But we didn’t come here to watch me break down a sentence, right?
The parallel that I would make between “Paula thinks really hard about how sentences should be put together” and life is this …
The concept of being “with” someone or something often sits more comfortably with whatever is already happening. An “and” feels like more pressure and takes the focus off of whatever the initial priority was.
And keeping priorities straight is something I’m working on right now. Maybe Kate helped me find my word of 2019?
Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)