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I'm editing the following sentence:

ORIGINAL: "The failure to warn the borrower of an inflated appraisal of which the lender is aware is a violation."

Is the use of "of which" correct? It seems stilted to me. However, this is for a scholarly publication. Here's how I revised it. Which is best?

REVISION: "The failure to warn the borrower of an inflated appraisal that the lender is aware of is a violation."

  • The original takes at least two tries to parse. The revision is not much of an improvement. Part of the problem is that both contain three nominalizations of verbs (fail, appraise, violate), while mere copulas serve as the actual verbs of both clauses. The total lack of punctuation also makes both unnecessarily difficult to parse. Try more radical re-engineering: and remember, in the words of Shakespeare's clown Touchstone, that there is "much virtue in If." – Brian Donovan Jul 8 '15 at 18:29
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    There is a rule about ending sentences with prepositions, which actually applies to clauses, with which many people disagree and which many choose not to follow. However, in formal writing, such a construction is much more usual, and the suggested revision, to my ear, sounds awkward and out of place. – phoog Jul 8 '15 at 18:30
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    The original is correct. It is even more correct (if that's possible) in the context of a legal description, which this seems to be. – oakfish56 Jul 8 '15 at 18:42
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    If the intent is to obfuscate, as too often in legal fine print, then perhaps. Otherwise, though, try something like "If the lender knows, but does not warn the borrower, that the property has been appraised at an inflated figure, then the lender has violated [whatever code or law or contract prohibits such dealing]." – Brian Donovan Jul 8 '15 at 18:46
  • @oakfish56 yes it is possible to have degrees of correctness. – phoog Jul 8 '15 at 18:59
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You need to read The Art of Plain Talk and The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch.

This sentence should be rewritten along the lines of

The lender is in violation if it is aware of an inflated appraisal and fails to inform the borrower.

or perhaps even just

The lender must inform the borrower if it learns that the appraisal is inflated.

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What you have to begin with is a statement of fact:

If lender knows that an appraisal is inflated, then it illegal for him to fail to inform the borrower of this fact.

The correct phrasing of your sentence requires more than felicitous wording. You must first of all consider your audience. There are three possible interested parties -- lenders, borrowers, and lawyers. Let's take them in turn:

  1. Lenders.

Lenders violate the law when they knowingly fail to inform the borrower of an inflated appraisal.

"Lenders" is the subject and the first word. The verb is active. Lenders need to know when they face legal liability, the sooner in the sentence, the better.

  1. Borrowers.

Borrowers should be aware that lenders violate they law if they know that your appraisal is inflated and they fail to inform you of this fact.

Borrowers are the target audience, so "Borrowers" is the first word and subject. The verb is exhortatory, with auxiliary "should." The sentence could also be in the imperative: "Borrowers, be aware ...." This is a warning after the fact: borrowers generally have no way to check on the accuracy of appraisals.

  1. Lawyers.

The law is violated when a lender knows that an appraisal is inflated and fails to inform the borrow of this fact.

Notice that the verb is in the passive voice and the actor has to wait to be identified in the subordinate clause. Even before lawyers want to know who might have violated the law, they want to know what the law says. They're used to a listing of the elements of a crime, so here it is 1) knows (mens rea, the guilty mind) and 2) fails to inform (actus reus, the culpable act).

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