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Reply to "Is the bold grammatical?"

I have to confess that I have a mild case of OCD; it's not THAT bad or anything, but it's to blame for this whole issue with this sentence, since I only created this awkward sentence to avoid the word "micro-departures", since the hyphen in that word appears at a line break, which means that I can't tell whether Friedman intended a hyphen or not. I know that that's irrational; OCD is an irrational phenomenon.

But that's the genesis of this awkward sentence, so I'm just explaining why I'm in this mess in the first place.

The problem with the sentence lies in its imprecision, in its not expressing the thought that you are trying to express with it.

I think that the bolded contrast is supposed to make the point that the US taxpayer pays for people to be educated in order to do nothing of social value:

The financial sector’s “salaries and bonuses” attract “many of our country’s best young mathematicians and physicists”—these talented graduates’ education “has been paid for mostly by either government funds or university endowments”, but activity related to what securities prices are doing “within a nanosecond time frame” adds “little to the financial system’s ability to perform any of its economic functions”.

The "but"-clause would make sense if it expressed that idea. Unfortunately, as you have written it, it does not express that idea at all. The second sentence says, "That's how their education was funded, but this security-price activity does little good." There is no clear relationship between the two clauses.

What if I just did the bold?

The financial sector’s “salaries and bonuses” attract “many of our country’s best young mathematicians and physicists”. These talented graduates’ education “has been paid for mostly by either government funds or university endowments”, but these talented minds—who have been educated on the taxpayer dime—engage in financial-sector activity that adds “little to the financial system’s ability to perform any of its economic functions”.

That's much clearer.

Last edited by David, Moderator
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