Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are there any rules governing what the "which" refers to in a sentence like this:

Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts a JSON document to my CouchDB instance which looks like:

Above, the meaning of "which" was meant to refer to the "JSON document", but I feel that people might interpret it as referring to "CouchDB instance".

I would like to retain the active voice, but feel like rewording it is awkward:

Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts a JSON document, that looks as follows, to my CouchDB instance:

UPDATE: What follows the colon is an example JSON document like:

 { foo: bar,
   key: 2
  }
share|improve this question
    
+1 for getting 'what the which' right. –  TimLymington Jan 16 '12 at 15:57
    
Just an example of code that represents the document. –  drozzy Jan 16 '12 at 16:04
    
@TimLymington I'm not sure I get it :-( –  drozzy Jan 16 '12 at 16:06
    
I'd go with yours @KateGregory, if only you were to post it as an answer... –  drozzy Jan 16 '12 at 19:57

6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Just make it two sentences. Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts a JSON document to my CouchDB instance. The document looks like this:

{ 
  foo: bar,
  key: 2
}
share|improve this answer

I'd go for

Every five minutes, the Node.js application sends the following JSON document to my CouchDB

You could also write the number 5 instead of "five". It makes a better impact, at least to me. I'd also try to make it shorter, so something like this would also work, if you are less meticulous.

Every 5 mins, the Node.js app sends the following JSON to my CouchDB

share|improve this answer

Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts the following JSON document to my CouchDB instance:

Or, if that's an example and not exactly what will be posted:

Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts a JSON document like the following to my CouchDB instance:

share|improve this answer

One could move up the "to my CouchDB instance" phrase:

Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts to my CouchDB instance a JSON document as follows:

    { foo: bar, key: 2
    }

I think this concisely fixes the ambiguity problem. A remaining drawback of the above form is that it has no good place for an end-of-sentence period. If that's a problem you can't abide, change "as follows:" to "as shown below.".

share|improve this answer
    
Both “…as follows” and “the following…” are fine with a period instead of a colon, I think. It’s just that a colon is perhaps more common. –  Jon Purdy Jan 16 '12 at 20:10

Every five minutes, the Node.js application posts to my CouchDB instance a JSON document (which is) coded below:

:{ foo: bar,
key: 2
}
share|improve this answer

There are no "rules" in play here. Without context, the construction is inherently ambiguous.

I'm sure it doesn't really matter though. In the actual context, something will follow the colon. Anyone who can't instantly tell whether that "something" is a JSON document or a CouchDB instance probably shouldn't be reading it anyway.

Note that I shouldn't be reading it, since I wouldn't have a clue what either of those things might look like. If OP thinks he might have any such readers (outside this ELU context), he should simply break it down into separate statements (or otherwise rephrase) as others have suggested.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.