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A Meta.SE post was recently edited (by an ELU member I respect), with the reason "grammar":

Before:

resigned: Aza on Literature, worth reading, predates other events; later wrote an update that's even more worth reading

After:

resigned: Aza on Literature, worth reading, predates other events; later wrote an update that's worth reading even more.

I didn't understand why the edit was made and would like to understand the considerations for such an edit. So here are my questions:

Was the edit an improvement? If so, was it necessary? Did it make things worse? If so, how much worse?

Bonus question: Would either of the following be a helpful edit of the original sentence?

A resigned: Aza on Literature, worth reading, predates other events; later wrote an update that's even more so.

B resigned: Aza on Literature, worth reading, predates other events; later wrote an update that's even more worthwhile.

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    (1) No (2) n/a (3/4) moderately, stylewise // (5) No (you have to go back too far to see even more than what) (6) not really (avoids second mention of 'worth reading' but 'worthwhile' is rather platitudinous here and fuzzy // (7) one question at a time (8) I think a lot of this is lit crit and so off-topic. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 9 at 18:33
  • Some of these questions belong on another site in the Stack Exchange network, Literature. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 9 at 18:35
  • @EdwinAshworth - That was very helpful, thanks. I will now dive in and do a rollback with more confidence, referring to your comment. // Lit Crit? Maybe you have been out of the loop? Stackexchange has been imploding. See: meta.stackexchange.com/q/334399/287826 – aparente001 Oct 10 at 2:33
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  1. Aza on Literature, worth reading, predates other events; later wrote an update that's even more worth reading.

  2. Aza on Literature, worth reading, predates other events; later wrote an update that's worth reading even more.

The original, (1) was fine as it was, even if some people might find it clunky. The edited version, (2) is positively damaging because it is syntactically ambiguous. The reason for this is that because of its position, the adverb phrase even more could easily be modifying the verb phrase reading rather than the adjective phrase worth reading. There is no grammatical way of disambiguating it. Of course, if this phrase modifies reading then it implies that it would be of value to read it several times. However, what is clearly intended by the original writer is that it is of even greater benefit to read it (than the previously mentioned posts). This reading is available from (2), but not immediately so, and the reader might have to read it twice to get the intended meaning. After all, the reader might well surmise that if the writer had intended the meaning in (1), they would have chosen that unambiguous phrasing.

There can be no helpful edit to a clearly written and grammatical sentence, unless one feels it is helpful to impose one's own sense of style on someone else. This might be ok if you're an editor, but not if you're just another SE member. De gustibus non est disputandum as they say in English!

  • Thanks for the careful explanation. // Is "positively damaging" a technical term in linguistics? In everyday English is sounds pretty strong.... – aparente001 Oct 11 at 13:13
  • You mentioned that the original was a little clunky. Can you think of any way of improving it, without a drastic rewrite? – aparente001 Oct 11 at 13:26
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    @aparente001 I mentioned that some people will find it clunky (because it doesn’t follow the most commonplace word order). I don’t, I find it good writing with a carefully chosen word order. – Araucaria Oct 12 at 9:42
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    @aparente001 It’s ‘positively damaging’ as an edit. This wouldn’t be the case if it had merely changed the style for better or worse. It did something inimical to a helpful edit: it introduced an unwelcome and unintended meaning which will mislead at least some readers. So that damages the post by betraying the writer’s communicative intent, and the readers’ understanding of it (inadvertently, of course). That’s the reason why. – Araucaria Oct 12 at 9:55

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