Friday, February 5, 2010

How Not to Start a Sentence Part II

Do not start a sentence with due to or based on. Use because of or on the basis of instead. Due to and based on create adjectival phrases. Adjectival phrases modify nouns. When these phrases introduce a sentence, they are followed by a comma and are understood to be describing the noun right after the comma. Here are some problem sentences with fixes:

Incorrect: Due to an early deadline, we do not have an update on this story. [The adjective phrase Due to an early deadline appears to modify we, but in reality, we are not what is due to the early deadline.]

Correct: Because of an early deadline, we not have an update on this story. [Because of creates an adverbial phrase, which correctly modifies the verb after the comma, correctly explaining why we do not have something.]

Incorrect:
Based on their analysis, the consultants recommended that we upgrade the software. [The adjective phrase Based on their analysis appears to modify the consultants, but as in the previous example, the consultants are not based on their own analysis.]

Correct: On the basis of their analysis, the consultants recommended that we upgrade the software. [On the basis of creates an adverbial phrase, which correctly modifies the verb recommended. However, this sentence sounds wordy.]

Better: After analyzing our needs, the consultants recommended that we upgrade the software.

Here is an example of based on used correctly:

Correct: Based on our careful research, this report is absolutely correct. [The adjective phrase based on our careful research correctly modifies this report: the report is in fact based on the careful research.]

Although it is possible to create a grammatically correct sentence starting with due to or based on, the great likelihood that you need an adverbial phrase, not an adjectival phrase, at the start of your sentence leads me to the advice you read above: Do not start a sentence with due to or based on.

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