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I am inferring from the following paragraph that the number of people who volunteered in community service following 9/11 attacks was twice as many as those who did so before the event. However, I am not sure and the wording of the sentence in terms of comparison seems weird. So, is this paragraph grammatical? And did I get the meaning right?

And in September of 2001, soon after two airplanes piloted by terrorists struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, there was a huge spike in volunteering, with nearly twice as many Americans performing community service after 9/11 compared to the numbers who had volunteered before the event.

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  • There is nothing grammatically wrong with it. The reason it may sound 'weird' is that it is a long sentence. Were it me I would break it into two, and enhance the punctuation. I would place a full stop after 'volunteering', and proceed with Nearly twice as many Americans performed community service after 9/11, compared to ... Note the comma after 9/11.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:57
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    You mean it is pretty OK to use as+adjective+compared to instead of as+adjective+as? Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 12:07
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    No you are quite right, I apologise. I hadn't spotted that they had missed the second as. It ought to read ...twice as many Americans...as the number before the event. Or possibly ...as compared to the number before the event. In practice others on the site may consider it 'prescriptive' to insist on the second as. People don't always take that trouble in everyday writing and parlance.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 12:38
  • I don't see anything wrong with the sentence. It could of course be reworded several different ways, or broken into two sentences, but it reads fine and is not at all confusing. At most I'd pick as using "numbers" rather than "number". Nothing wrong with using "compared". And I see no need for an added comma -- if anything it breaks the flow and train of thought.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 13:02

1 Answer 1

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The problem lies in an inexact complementary structure, or at least a somewhat unfamiliar one. This is not a grammatical issue, but it's one that might be worthwhile to correct.

Normally, the "[n times] as many" figure relies on as as its complementary linking word. For example,

Jane has twice as many Facebook followers as Joan.

The construct you cite uses compared to instead of as. To sub that into my example sentence, we get

Jane has twice as many Facebook followers compared to Joan.

Notice that even in this short sentence it sounds a little off, though that's as far as it goes. We can't really fault the sentence grammatically, because it does make grammatical sense.

If it bothered us, we might rewrite this sentence as

Jane has twice as many Facebook followers as compared to Joan.

This reintroduces the as link. Whether it's a stylistic improvement or not is another matter.

Keeping these things in mind, I might rewrite the offending clause in the sentence you cite as

. . . with nearly twice as many Americans performing community service after 9/11 as had volunteered before the event.

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