In today's financial Times I read: "The clearest sign post the referendum..." and it took me a while to parse this.

Does it say "The clearest [sign post]..." or is it a sign "post the referendum"? Of course the latter, but are there any rules that can help me to read such texts more easily without having to go back multiple times to re-parse util all the words fit a proper sentence?

  • You could look up signpost / sign post to see whether the open compound is standard. Oct 26, 2016 at 10:56
  • What comes AFTER that? The phrase is too short. The clearest sign post the referendum that blah blah blah would be VERY clear. So what comes after it? You need to post the rest of the damn sentence. Not all readers are created equal.
    – Lambie
    Oct 26, 2016 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


It's a garden-path sentence. There is no rule that will make sure you never take the wrong path. That's the whole point of garden-path sentences. Otherwise they just wouldn't be a thing.

  • Thanks. I now know that the re-parsing is not only due to me being a foreigner. Oct 26, 2016 at 10:51
  • @PaulOgilvie This sentence is particularly misleading because 'sign post' is way more common and expected than 'post' as a preposition, which is almost a neologism (not in the usual list of prepositions in English).
    – Mitch
    Oct 26, 2016 at 12:34
  • I disagree completely. The OP should have posted more of the sentence, by not doing so, a mountain is being made of what is surely a molehill as the FT never does garden-path sentences. Like The Economist they have some of the most highly skilled English (both meanings) editors on the planet.
    – Lambie
    Oct 26, 2016 at 14:30
  • Oh, and it's not even a sentence, by the way.
    – Lambie
    Oct 26, 2016 at 14:41
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth There is no sentence. It is a truncated part of a sentence.
    – Lambie
    Oct 26, 2016 at 15:52

Here is the way this appeared in the press yesterday 10/25/2016: Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told reporters on Tuesday.

"This is a really big decision for this country but it's also the clearest sign post the referendum that this country is very clearly open for business," he said.

So, it is very clear that this means: post the referendum.

I could not find it in the FT but I suspect 1) It is the same sentence or a part thereof and 2) The full sentence in the FT is most likely very clear.

As this was spoken originally, the speaker's intonation would have made the meaning even clearer....

  • Your 'even clearer' means that you accept the original could be misconstrued to some extent. Oct 26, 2016 at 14:50
  • Yes, from "the clearest.." is the quote in the FT (p.2, Heathrow). But my mis-parse occurred at the end of the phrase I quoted. Point being that reading the whole sentence three times gave me the correct parse, but I stumbled here. It could also have been written as "the clearest sign, post the referendum,..." and would have caused no mis-parse. Oct 26, 2016 at 14:57
  • @PaulOgilvie Please make sure you post the full sentence when you ask a question. That sentence is never confusing. To Lambie, nice answer.
    – user140086
    Oct 26, 2016 at 15:30
  • @Edwin Ashworth I didn't say "even clearer".
    – Lambie
    Oct 26, 2016 at 15:51
  • 1
    "As this was spoken originally, the speaker's intonation would have made the meaning even clearer...." seems clearly to prove that you did. Oct 26, 2016 at 18:25

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