Last week, a local media out­let report­ed on a crime sto­ry. In their sto­ry, they had the fol­low­ing sen­tence:

A male and female sus­pect left the home before police arrived but were found at a res­i­dence on Stafford Dri­ve North lat­er in the morn­ing.

This sen­tence con­fus­es the read­er, mak­ing it unclear how many sub­jects there are. It says “a . . . sus­pect”, but then describes that sin­gle sus­pect as “male and female” and lat­er uses “were” instead of “was”.

To clar­i­fy, the writer could just say “Two sus­pects left the home . . .”, espe­cial­ly since they describe the sus­pects’ ages and sex­es lat­er in the arti­cle. Alter­na­tive­ly — but more awk­ward­ly — the author could have said “A male and a female sus­pect . . .”.

Remem­ber, when you’re writ­ing, pay atten­tion to agree­ment between your nouns, verbs, and adjec­tives. Clear writ­ing makes it eas­i­er for your read­ers to under­stand your mes­sage.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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