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Current Sentence:

The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found, or all the steps have been exhausted, and an adjustment to the system must be made.

Proposed Edit:

The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found or all steps have been exhausted and an adjustment to the system must be made.

Update to my proposed edit, based on comments:

The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found or until all steps have been exhausted and an adjustment to the system must be made.

My hope is that the update to my proposed edit clarifies the meaning of the sentence. But absent the second instance of the word until, what is the best way to explain this to the writer so that they have the tools to avoid the mistake in the future? (Perhaps this is a training question that is out of scope for this forum.)

(The writer has been told to follow the FANBOYS acronym when separating two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction. So the writer went comma-crazy.)

Assuming my edit is correct that the remaining clauses in this sentence are dependent on the preposition until, is there an easy way to explain this to the writer? I'm new to editing and honestly don't know the best way to explain this.

Thank you for your assistance.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is not a card game. :) But it has been simplified to avoid the name of proprietary software.

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  • Hard to parse. Try << The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found or all steps have been exhausted,/; and an adjustment to the system must be made. >> Or two sentences. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 at 18:53
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Try inserting Either.

Perform the steps in this procedure chronologically until either the card has been found or all the steps have been exhausted and an adjustment to the system must be made.

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Your proposed edit:

The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found or all steps have been exhausted and an adjustment to the system must be made.

My suggested edit of your edit:

The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found, or all steps have been exhausted and an adjustment to the system has been made.

If the parallelism is not warranted, I'll take the blame for not understanding the context and meaning of the sentence. Nevertheless, what makes sense to me is preserving the parallelism:

  • must be performed
  • has been found
  • have been exhausted
  • has been made

In light of your comment about my edit changing the meaning of your sentence, perhaps your sentence should become two sentences, as with the following:

The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found or until all steps have been exhausted. Then an adjustment to the system must be made.

Better yet, getting rid of the passive mode might be a good idea, as in

You must perform the steps in this procedure chronologically until you have found the card or until you have exhausted all steps. Then you can make an adjustment to the system.

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  • Your edit changes the meaning. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 at 18:54
  • @EdwinAshworth: I'm not so sure I agree with you. I did, however, add a comma in my latest edit. Perhaps that makes my edit more sensible. Frankly, I don't know. The sentence, to me, sounds like the instructions from a card game. Don – rhetorician Mar 29 at 19:58
  • The suggested edit of my edit changes the meaning. It becomes an either/or scenario. I could (should) have added proposed the following suggested edit (note that this edit added a second instance of the word "until": The steps in this procedure must be performed chronologically until the card has been found or until all steps have been exhausted and an adjustment to the system has been made. – Michael Snyder Mar 29 at 20:21
  • @MichaelSnyder: Check out my latest edit, Michael. Don – rhetorician Mar 31 at 3:23
  • @rhetorician: This ended up trickier than I realized, I think. The adjustment is made only if the card hasn't been found. I agree that two sentences would be better than one. I'm operating under parameters that constrain how intrusive my edits can be. By the way, not sure who is down-voting the comments made, but I've appreciated both your and Mr Guest's comments. Thank you! – Michael Snyder Mar 31 at 13:44

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