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How do I properly write this sentence?

The census shall provide the total population, its structure and spatial distribution.

The second two items are dependent upon "population", but it seems repetitive to say "the total population, the population's structure, and the population's spatial distribution". Any thoughts or alternatives, or am I best to repeat?

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5  
Perhaps I am missing something, but why do you feel the need to reword? "Total population, its structure and spatial distribution" seems fine to me. –  RegDwigнt Jan 4 '11 at 10:00
4  
I think the problem here is separating the last two elements in the series from the first. You could say, "The census shall provide the total population and its structure and spatial distribution." The pronoun "its" refers to the last-mentioned noun (population). However, I'm not sure about the usage of "provide" here. It sounds strange for a census to provide the total population. It may be better to say it provides details/data/statistics about the total population –  Tragicomic Jan 4 '11 at 10:27
    
@JSBձոգչ, I'm not sure I agree with this retag. This question is not actually about punctuation at all. –  Marthaª Aug 17 '12 at 16:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

To write succinctly, we can use

The census shall provide the total number, structure and spatial distribution of the population.

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+1 - this one sounds better to me than the sentence in the question because "its" refers to population and not to "total population". –  b.roth Jan 4 '11 at 14:42

The census shall describe the population: its count, structure and geographical distribution.

I substitute 'describe' for 'provide', since what the census provides is not the elements enumerated but an account of them. You could say "population's count, structure, &c"; my construction is just a tad more formal.

'Total' is superfluous, and creates an ambiguity respecting which terms it modifies.

I say 'geographical' distribution because 'spatial' implies that there will be some account of which story various demographics occupy!

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The census shall provide statistics about the population, its total population, structure and spatial distribution.

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