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Why is the following sentence grammatically incorrect?

We hope you will find our Qualifications to be well-organized, concise, and most of all, to exceed your expectations.

I've asked three grammar whiz friends and they have all told me "it just isn't right." I need reasons and rules! I wrote this sentence as a closing to a cover letter....

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We hope you will find "x" to be "a", "b", and most of all, to exceed your expectations. There is a problem with "to exceed" fitting in with the rest of the sentence. –  medica Feb 18 at 3:03
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This suggests that your qualifications are well-organized and concise. Perhaps they are; but your friends probably feel it would be more to the point to claim that you are well-organized and concise. –  StoneyB Feb 18 at 3:18
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I hope you will find this comment to be well-organized, concise, and to exceed your expectations. It's a clumsy construction, because we obviously expect the third item in the list to be another adjective, not a whole new clause with an infinitive. But I think it might be stretching a point to say that aspect is "ungrammatical". OP's actual sentence is even more clunky - as StoneyB says, capitalised or not, qualifications aren't usually described as "well-organized" or "concise". I guess they could theoretically "exceed expectations", but they didn't for me in this case. –  FumbleFingers Feb 18 at 3:36
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Just as an aside: Don't hope that they will find anything. It makes you sound rather weak! Better to say: "We look forward to serving you, and being able to show you that we are qualified, well-organized, and most of all, poised to exceed your every expectation!" –  David M Feb 18 at 4:33
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How can "qualifications" be well-organised, concise and exceed your expectations? The problem primarily lies with the word, qualifications. Perhaps services would be more appropriate. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 18 at 8:25

7 Answers 7

up vote 34 down vote accepted

If you delete the most of all and rewrite it as a bulletted list, the problem becomes clear:

We hope you will find our Qualifications to be:

  • well-organized
  • concise
  • to exceed your expectations

Your sentence treats well-organized, concise and to exceed your expectations as being in the same grammatical category. well-organized and concise are adjectives, but to exceed your expectations is an infinitive. to be to exceed your expectations is just wrong.

It was harder to spot before, because the most of all confused matters.

Also, qualifications should probably not be capitalized (although that depends on context).

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+1 - good way to examine the problem; the visual format makes it quite apparent. –  medica Feb 18 at 6:36
    
Good answer, except you shouldn't have a colon after "be." –  ahruss Feb 18 at 7:03
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@ahruss why on earth not? –  Mari-Lou A Feb 18 at 8:16
    
Thank you for providing this wonderful explanation, it really helps to see it broken down visually. –  Sierra Feb 18 at 13:31
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@ahruss (and @Mary-LouA) Please don't treat Grammar Girl as authoritative. 'kay? Now, about lists: I use a colon to introduce a bullet-list, regardless of grammar. It's a matter of visual layout. This is common practice. Maybe there's a case for saying that we should only use colons if we would use a colon in a "flat" list, but I don't think it's a strong one. After all, you didn't tell me to put commas at the end of every line, or an and before the final line, did you? –  Pitarou Feb 19 at 2:24

Based on context, Qualifications would have to be taken to be some kind of written document, but none of the senses of the noun "qualification" in e.g. Merriam-Webster could be construed to refer to a document. So either it's some kind of jargon, or it's a wrong use of the word "qualification." If it's some kind of jargon, that would need to be explained for this general audience to understand. Otherwise, you need to say something like "qualification document" or whatever it is you mean by "Qualifications." Also, why is it capitalized?

Furthermore, many editors or grammar nitpickers would object to the unparallel structure of the list—adjective, adjective, infinitive clause—but I don't think this makes it ungrammatical, just clunky.

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Thank you for your help! I should have explained my use of "Qualifications", you are right. This is a proposal I am writing, and the word Qualifications is the official name of this phase in the proposal process. –  Sierra Feb 18 at 13:23

It is an example of anacoluthon: a sentence which starts using one grammatical construction and ending with a different one. (Just like that.)

... find our qualifications to be... to exceed your expectations.

A simple grammatical fix is:

We hope you will find our qualifications to be well-organized and concise, and most of all, to exceed your expectations.

But I'm not at all sure what "our qualifications are concise" is supposed to mean. "Concise" refers to a piece of writing; a qualification is a status awarded for, e.g., passing a set of exams.

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If this is a résumé or an application, the implication would be that the person’s qualifications are set out in a well-organised and concise manner in the letter/résumé, which seems like a perfectly natural thing to say to me. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 9:24
    
Oh. I hadn't even considered that. Why would anyone end a cover letter with, "Hey, and I formatted my résumé real nice!" Is that the best thing you have to say about yourself? Seriously? –  David Richerby Feb 18 at 9:29
    
My apologies, I should have mentioned that this is a cover letter to a proposal I am writing. The "Qualifications" is the term used for the first stage of a proposal. I tried to reinstate a request from the Client that the Qualifications be 'concise and to the point.' –  Sierra Feb 18 at 13:28
    
Thank you all for your help! –  Sierra Feb 18 at 13:28
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@Sierra OK, that makes much more sense. Essentially, the meaning of what you've written is "I hope you find the qualifications section of our proposal to be blah blah blah" and "section of our proposal" is so strongly implied that you can leave it out. Having said that, I still wouldn't end the covering letter by saying, "Hey, and I wrote qualifications section real well!" You should end with the most impressive relevant thing about your company, so your potential client is inspired to hire you! –  David Richerby Feb 20 at 8:58

'We hope you will find our qualifications to be well-organized, concise, and most of all, to exceed your expectations.'

This sentence is not strictly ungrammatical, but it does have its difficulties. The problem is that the first and third of your descriptors are autonomous infinitive clauses, while the second depends upon the first.

The first one, 'to be well-organized', is fine. The second one, 'concise', essentially piggy-backs upon the first, which is to say that there is an implied to be before it. However, the third, 'to exceed your expectations', breaks the sequence by replacing the implied to be with 'to exceed'.

Thus, if we extrapolate the sentence to include the implied information, we get the following: 'We hope you will find our qualifications to be well-organized, to be concise, and most of all, to exceed your expectations.' There is nothing particularly objectionable about this sentence, because, with the addition of the previously-implied to be, the reader no longer expects to be to precede the third descriptor.

Another way to improve the sentence is to replace the third descriptor with a prepositional phrase: 'We hope you will find our qualifications to be well-organized, concise, and beyond your expectations.' This works because the phrase 'to be beyond your expectations' is relatively smooth, whereas 'to be to exceed your expectations' is quite clunky.

Hopefully that makes sense. Post a comment if anything is unclear.

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Usually will is not used with hope and Qualifications need not be capitalized.

It can be rephrased as We hope you find our qualifications mentioned if it is a written application for the job detailing your qualifications.

And the part, to be well-organized and concise, and most of all exceed your expectations. doesn't go together as the last bit is a to infinitive.

It can be revised as__ are well- organized and concise and meet your expectations.

When i put together the parts, it becomes

We hope you find our qualifications mentioned are well-organized and concise and meet your expectations.

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Usually will is not used with hope Could you share the hyperlink of source which can support this concept? –  Sandeep Dhamija Feb 18 at 5:33
    
After'I / We hope', we often use a present tense with a future meaning. For example, I hope she likes the dress. Please refer to Michael Swan's 'Practical English Usage'. –  divya Feb 18 at 5:49
    
We hope you will have an unforgettable visit here. - Borneo Samboja Ecolodge, and many other vacation destination brochures. –  medica Feb 18 at 6:43
    
I hope that my work will be satisfactory. Source –  Sandeep Dhamija Feb 18 at 6:44
    
@SandeepDhamija This sentence has an adjective satisfactory in it following the modal auxiliary will and the be form not a main verb that takes an object. –  divya Feb 18 at 7:50

As corrections, how about:

"We hope you (will) find our Qualifications to be well-organized, concise, and most of all, exceeding your expectations."

or

"We hope you (will) find our Qualifications to be well-organized, concise, and most of all, that they will exceed your expectations."

The parenthesized "(will)" above means that you can (and probably should, as mentioned in other answers) drop the future tense there.

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I would argue that the commas are wrong - you need to put commas around "most of all" and omit the "to".

We hope you will find our Qualifications to be well-organized, concise and, most of all, exceed your expectations.

We could argue about the Oxford comma all day, but here it makes sense (to me) to omit it because the commas around most of all are rhetorical ones.

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"We hope you will find our qualifications to be... exceed your expectations" still has the most significant problem of the original. –  David Richerby Feb 20 at 9:00
    
I should have made mine as a comment, rather than an answer... –  NomisSilloc Feb 21 at 14:24

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