I am working on documentation for some work stuff. A reviewer has told me to change this:

Decisions made by the CAB apply to all members of ETG and non-ETG employees that participate in ETG processes.

to this:

Decisions made by the CAB apply to all members of ETG and to non-ETG employees that participate in ETG processes.

Now, in my mind both are correct. "To" can be implied.

Am I correct? What do style guides such as APA and MLA say about this?

  • It occurred to me this may be more appropriate on English language...how would I go about moving it? – James Mar 3 '14 at 14:38
  • I'll migrate it for you. – Monica Cellio Mar 3 '14 at 14:45
  • I'm not a style guide; the second to seems redundant initially but not on second glance. The recommendation has to do with members and employees being two distinct groups, not two subsets of employees. I can see the reason for it. I can't find a guideline in the APA guide. – anongoodnurse Mar 3 '14 at 15:07

This is not the sort of thing that style guides typically address. It is rather a matter of making it as easy as possible for your reader to understand what you are saying, and as hard as possible to misunderstand it.

Your original version is in no way ungrammatical. But it does lead readers, briefly, down a ‘garden path’. As they process the sentence from left to right they are very likely to take the sequence ETG and non-ETG as a conjunct attributive nominal which will be followed by a noun they modify—perhaps something like:

Decisions made by the CAB apply to all members of ETG and non-ETG organizations ...

The readers are of course quickly disabused of this notion by what actually does follow, and all is well. But this does require them to pause, back up, and re-parse, which is vaguely annoying.

Inserting the to makes your structure unambiguously clear and more easily processed, and it removes a possible source of vexation. It informs readers that you are more concerned with conserving their effort than your own. That's a great gain at the very low cost of typing three more characters.

If this seems far-fetched to you, it’s because you already know what you mean; it’s exactly what happened to me reading it cold, and I knew exactly what it wanted before I finished the sentence and got to your reviewer’s correction.

  • 1
    I agree that something is necessary before 'non-ETG'. Personally, I'd put in another all, but to works. – Tim Lymington Mar 3 '14 at 15:24
  • In speech, the problem would not arise; in writing, intonation, stress, and rhythm have to be imagined instead of guiding the interpretation. If the reader can imagine a different way to say it, the reader might not hear what the author wants them to. Say it out loud instead of looking in vain in style guides. – John Lawler Mar 3 '14 at 15:47
  • I only mentioned style guides because the person reviewing mentioned that I was "wrong" I was looking for some sort of formal documentation on implied parts of speech. "Wrong" seems a strong word for what I would consider a preference/opinion. It's English. There is more than one way to say/write everything. – James Mar 3 '14 at 16:35
  • John Lawler invented formal documentation. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '14 at 16:38
  • @James It's the Adamantine Law of Written English: Whatever can be misunderstood will be. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 3 '14 at 17:11

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