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I have the following sentence in my thesis:

It appears that if A is a certain language, either the converse of Proposition 1 holds or the converse of Proposition 2 holds.

I am wondering whether I can change it to the following without changing the meaning of the sentence and without violating any grammatical rules.

It appears that if A is a certain language, either the converse of Proposition 1 or Proposition 2 holds.

English is not my native language, so if you find any other grammatical or style errors, I would greatly appreciate tips!

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If the converse of the propositions is reciprocal, then it's a fine (long winded) way of writing a very simple idea. In any case it's very difficult to read and understand what you mean when the (jarring) converse is thrown into the mix. I would write it as "Either the converse of Proposition 1 or 2 appears to hold, given any certain language." –  Chris Jan 25 '13 at 4:09
    
The original sentence is the one that conveys the correct meaning. I would not advise trying to shorten it. The suggested alternative is not correct. Other alternatives can be either ambiguous or convey the wrong meaning. –  Kris Jan 25 '13 at 8:25

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There's a [faint] chance that some readers might mis-parse OP's proposed revision as meaning either [the converse of Proposition 1] or [Proposition 2] holds (i.e. - converse only modifies Proposition 1).

I probably wouldn't bother to change the wording on that account myself - but if OP is concerned, he could always play safe and write...

It appears that if A is a certain language, the converse of either Proposition 1 or Proposition 2 holds.

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Thanks, that sounds better! –  sxd Jan 25 '13 at 2:02
    
@Dimitri Surinx: I don't really have sufficient context to be sure, but on the "stylistic" front it's possible your if A is a certain language is a bit odd. In your context, could A be anything other than a language? If not, it might be better to say It appears that for any given language A, the converse... –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 2:11
    
@Dimitri: I highly recommend FumbleFingers' play it safe version for two reasons. First, it's clearer than your second sentence (no ambiguity). Second, it's sound syntax because either is where it's supposed to be. Most native speakers don't care about where modifiers should be in their sentences, which is one reason contemporary writing is so incredibly bad (it may not be worse than it used to be, but it's certainly no better). –  user21497 Jan 25 '13 at 3:18
    
There's more than a "faint chance", FF. There's a good chance because the sentence is inherently ambiguous. Readers will be confused by the unclear syntax, and some -- but probably not most -- will make the wrong inference. Your revision is just what's called for: clear English. –  user21497 Jan 25 '13 at 3:21
    
@BillFranke, I guess you ment nonnative speakers? It is not that I do not care, I just don't know where they should be. Is there any reference you can provide perhaps where I can read about such things? –  sxd Jan 25 '13 at 3:28

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