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When a Stack Exchange user gets a new privilege, it's accompanied by the following notification:

Congrats, you've gained the privilege – talk in chat learn more

That phrase "may be oddly worded, but it is a valid sentence," according to Jeff. I'm not so sure. Who's right?

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Close enough for Web notifications and links. –  Robusto Jul 30 '12 at 20:31
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Bleh. "It's on the Internet" is no excuse for lowered standards. –  Pops Jul 30 '12 at 20:34
    
Are you kidding? The message is at least intelligible. That puts it in the top 25% of all Internet communications, unless I miss my guess. –  Robusto Jul 30 '12 at 20:41
    
It's kind of sad that we're settling for "intelligible," especially when one of the goals of Stack Overflow was to make programmers better writers/communicators. But that's getting a bit off-topic for this site. –  Pops Jul 30 '12 at 20:48
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It certainly is not a grammatically correct sentence, but at its core it has a valid sentence structure, "you've gained the privilege". It would approach correctness rather more with to in place of the dash; a period after answers; and learn capitalized. There may be some reason (aside from a mock-casual tone) for abbreviating Congratulations; if there's no such reason, it might as well be spelled out.

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So why not change it to the privilege of -- Verbing ...? –  John Lawler Jul 25 '12 at 17:01
    
@JohnLawler, but that would be 3 characters longer, besides "privilege of editing" being weaker and less-direct than "privilege to edit". Do you see a grammatical problem with the latter form? –  jwpat7 Jul 25 '12 at 17:06
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Yes. The gerund is better as a complement to privilege than the infinitive. And where does the characterization of "weaker and less direct" come from? Finally, what's another three characters on this site? We're already awash in them. –  John Lawler Jul 25 '12 at 17:17
    
@JohnLawler re:Verbing, I suspect that it's easier to maintain a list of privileges in code without having to worry about grammatical issues. –  coleopterist Jul 25 '12 at 17:33
    
That's certainly true; and frankly I don't care how the user interface is designed. But in general it's better practice to make code look like code and not attempt to linguisticize it; for one thing, it's hard, and expensive to do it right. –  John Lawler Jul 25 '12 at 17:47
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I don't think that it's perfectly punctuated.

Congrats, you've gained the privilege – edit questions and answers

Setting aside the learn more, there is no period at the end of the sentence. But, I'm guessing that that's not the issue here. It's the dashing dash which is, and IMHO, it's being used incorrectly. For starters, it's an en dash (assuming that it's been pasted correctly), and it's not really kosher to use it to replace a colon (which is what is being done here). This dash is essentially used only for one thing, indicating ranges such as 1–10, 1900–2000, and so on. The em dash, on the other hand, is sometimes used in informal writing to replace the colon.

A hyphen, an en dash and an em dash: - – —.

The above should illustrate which dash is being used in Atwood's sentence. This line can be fixed to use the em dash (sans the spaces on either side) as below:

Congrats, you've gained the privilege—edit questions and answers.

The differences between hyphens, dashes, and the minus sign, are outlined here.

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I just received a privilege notification and copied it directly into the question. The dash that is in the question body now should be accurate. –  Pops Jul 25 '12 at 17:52
    
@LordTorgamus They look identical. That's good/bad depending on how you want to look at it :) –  coleopterist Jul 25 '12 at 17:57
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Grammatically correct, the sentence is.

A similar sentence structure is:

You've gained the sword: "Sting".

As wikipedia states:

Em dashes are sometimes used to set off summaries or definitions

Since "Congrats, you've gained the privilege." is grammatically correct as sentences go, adding a definition of the privilege is also fine.

Learn more is a link and so is not part of the sentence. It might be better to separate it with a full stop.

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