1

A co-worker and I disagree on how to phrase the end of this sentence:

(1) MDA-MB-231 cells, which are highly invasive, are more than 20 times less sensitive to gradients than neutrophils are.

or

(2) MDA-MB-231 cells, which are highly invasive, are more than 20 times less sensitive to gradients than are neutrophils.

One of the sentences sounds wrong to me, and the other sounds wrong to him. Is one or the other incorrect? Are both acceptable? Is one preferable? What is the name of this kind of construction?

  • In general, undo you're branching tangents and winding paths into direct statements. Descriptions go before nouns in English, or you need that "which are" scaffolding and commas to wedge it in. It's valid to use a which clause, but rarely a best practice in technical writing. It's also awkward to mix more and less. A slight fix is "The highly invasive MDA-MB-231 cells are over 20 times less sensitive to gradients than neutrophil." A potentially better fix is "The highly invasive MDA-MB-231 cells are at least 20 times less sensitive to gradients than neutrophil." – jimm101 Nov 15 '18 at 17:27
5

Neither one of the sentences you posted is definitively wrong. However, applying the rules of parallelism, since you say "MDA-MB-231 cells are," it becomes preferable to likewise follow that same ordering by saying "neutrophils are."

I'm not sure why you think one sounds strange and the other doesn't. If the one of you who thinks ending the sentence with "are" sounds strange because it ends the sentence with a verb, then that one of you should know that that's not a problem. I only mention this because I've seen some people ask about not ending a sentence with a verb, as if it's against the rules. There is nothing at all in grammar that even hints that ending a sentence with a verb is incorrect. I have no idea where this notion comes from. There is actually a literary device that specifically involves ending a sentence with a verb.

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