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If I want to say that I designed my commercial robot to have interchangeable parts and add-ons that the customer can choose from, is it proper to phrase this as...

“that's why our robot is made modular.”

If not, why?

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No, it is not correct. There are four problems with the sentence:

  1. You don't need the 'made' and including it makes the sentence sound odd. It is unneeded because the context of 'our robot' already implies that you're talking about how the robot was designed or constructed.
  2. You are mixing past (made) and present (is) constructions.
  3. You've also omitted the usual phrase construction, something is 'made to be X' not 'made X'.
  4. Although 'made' is acceptable as a verb for this context, 'designed' or 'constructed' are more commonly used words.

"That's why our robot is modular" is the simplest correction of these three problems.

However, it may not be tonally correct depending on context. The "that's why" makes it sound like it comes from an old commercial, or a over-excited children's book:

"By Jove!" exclaimed Jimmy, "That's why our robot is modular!"

You could also used "that's why our robot was made to be modular", but it's a pretty fussy construction, and 'designed' or 'constructed' would be better words choice than 'made' which, while perfectly understandable, is unusual in this kind of sentence.

Finally, you could switch from a passive to an active sentence form, e.g., "that's why we made our robot modular". This switch of form drops the 'to be' for 'made', but if you wanted to use 'designed' or 'constructed' here you'd still require it, giving the best alternative I see: "that's why we designed our robot to be modular".

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A simple rule of thumb for determining correct word usage is to insert the definition in place of the word, in which case "that's why our robot is made employing or involving a module or modules as the basis of design or construction" sounds alright to me. Although, that definition breaks the rule of not using a word to define said word. (I got it Googleing "module")

Myself, I would use the word "modularity" as in "modularity is intrinsic to the design of our mouse traps"

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Doesn't sound right to my ear - after the verb 'made' I'm somehow expecting an adverb, ie 'made modularly' which at best is not what you mean, and at worst, it isn't even a word. I think 'That's why we made our robot modular' flows better.

  • I think I figured out what irks me about this phrase. "That's why our robot is made modular" sounds like it wasn't modular before, and then we modularized it after the fact. You cannot make (as in- build, construct) an adjective. You build nouns. You can make (as in- cause) a noun to obtain the properties of an adjective (we made our car red), but that requires the noun to exist beforehand. So you can say "a yellow car was made, and then it was made red", which isn't the same as saying that we built it that way from the beginning ("we made a red car"). – user272253 Dec 18 '17 at 12:59
  • I see you point, but to my ear either interpretation is valid based on context. In any event, you have answered your question yourself "We made a red car" => "We made a modular robot". Otherwise I think you are going to have to cast a wider net: "That's why we built our robot to be modular from the ground up" – peterG Dec 18 '17 at 13:52
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I would suggest:

"That is the reason why our robot is made modular"

or, if you want it fancy:

"That stands at the core of our application's/bot's modularity"

IMHO, "modular" is a great word choice.

  • My question was "is it correct to phrase it this way?", not "what would be a better way of saying this?". – user272253 Dec 18 '17 at 11:52
  • Is this a form of saying thanks, Nikita? – Tommy Dec 18 '17 at 11:53
  • "that's why" is bad, but modular is fine in the sentence. – Tommy Dec 18 '17 at 11:54
  • It's a form of saying "you're not answering the question". – user272253 Dec 18 '17 at 11:54
  • "that's why" is childish... – Tommy Dec 18 '17 at 11:56