If you’re looking for a deal …

A colleague suggested a blog entry about nonsensical “if … then” sentences. This is a subtle matter that doesn’t give most of us pause, but it’s worth a look.

These “if … then” constructions often appear in TV commercials and ads. Here is an example: If you like fast sports cars, then the XYZ Dealership has a deal for you. The “then” clause doesn’t follow from the “if” clause. We start the sentence with the subject “you,” but we switch subjects in the second clause to “XYZ Dealership.”

You could revise this sentence like this: If you like fast sports cars, you can find a great deal at the XYZ Dealership. The subject of both clauses is “you.”

This is not a grammar problem, of course. It’s more of a question of composition or logical structure. If you set up a premise in the first part of the “if … then” sentence, then you should stick with the subject of the premise in the second part. One way to do that is to keep in mind the subject of the sentence and to follow through.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.