time-sensitive documents, goods, articles or cargo

In the phrase reproduced above, does it mean that only documents are time-sensitive or does time-sensitive apply to goods, articles and cargo as well?


1 Answer 1


The ambiguity there is perfect. To clear it up, one should revise it to either

such documents, goods, articles[,] and cargoes as are time-sensitive

(if the time-sensitivity is shared by all), or

goods, articles, cargoes[,] and time-sensitive documents

(if only the documents are time-sensitive).

(The bracketed commas are so-called Oxford or serial commas.)

  • Agreed. The most likely solution is that 'time-sensitive' applies to all the items. Hwever, without further context it is impossible to be certain. Aug 31, 2015 at 18:18
  • Here is the whole paragraph (context):- Courier services mean the transmission, transportation or conveyance, whether door-to-door or not of time-sensitive documents, goods, articles or cargo whether or not utilizing the services of a person either directly or indirectly to accompany such documents, goods, articles or cargo.
    – Joshua
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:26
  • I would take that to mean that "time-sensitive" applies to all, especially since the same items are mentioned as a group without the modifier later in the sentence. But it is a little ambiguous from a grammatical standpoint.
    – TomMcW
    Aug 31, 2015 at 21:29

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