Yesterday’s International Herald Tribune included two sentences that might have benefited from one more pass by the editor:
1 To the surprise of no one who has followed the issue, a new report provided evidence that the cyber attacks coming from China are heavily state-sponsored rather than being the work of independent actors.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry (or maybe it was his translator) decried “the evidence in this so-called report”. But as the existence of the report is not in doubt, the modifier would have worked better in its traditional place in government denial-speak: The “so-called evidence” in this report.
2 In a news story about the arrest of a Mr. Yaacoub, the grounds were described as “suspicion of taking part in the continuing shadow war between Israel and Iran and Hezbollah”.
If you know the regional politics, you know to read the end of this sentence as A AND (B+C). But if you didn’t know the politics, you might think that Israel and Iran are together at war with Hezbollah or that all three are at war with each other.
If the subject were something less negatively valenced, such as friendship, you could simply move the first party before the subject e.g., “this was part of Bill’s continuing friendship with Susan and Carlos”. But as the subject is “shadow war”, doing that might come across as blaming one side or the either entirely for the war — it’s Israel’s shadow war with or Iran and Hezbollah’s shadow war with. I could not find a better way but no doubt many of you can.