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.
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