A friend who works for the state’s treasury department discussed a grammar issue with me, and I thought you might like to have a go at it. The problem was awkward structure, which could muddle up the sentence meaning and who knows, maybe prevent our state from earning money! The sentence, a multiple-choice question, was posted on a bonds website like this:
What type of bonds does this website offer information about?

So what’s wrong? It ends in a preposition? Not such a big deal, except that does add to its awkwardness. The subject phrase (I’m not a ling. scholar, I have no clue what the correct term is for that) “type of bonds” interrupts the eng. question structure of “what does…”, and “does” and “bonds” don’t seem to agree in pluralization. It’s just a mess!

The friend fixed it as such:
What types of bonds…. and I can’t remember the rest!
She noticed that “type” and “bonds” didn’t agree. Brava!

In my fix, I took advantage of the multiple-choice-edness, and formated the question like this:
This website offers information on which types of the following bonds?

I moved its question-ality to the second half of the sentence, so then the whole thing re-forms without that awkward preposition to end it. I know I wrote that it wasn’t a big deal, but it was part of what made the sentence sound funny. “Do” and “does” can be problematic, and if coupled with “what” in a question, then what should be a simple subject-verb agreement, like in this case, becomes more complicated than necessary. It’s best to find a way to make it disappear. Also, “which” instead of “what” is good to use when specific options are involved, like… with a multiple-choice question!

I found teaching hard and fast rules to language a challenge. I’m not a prescriptivist, but I do believe there is a certain correctness contingent to the purpose of the writing. And in general the KISS principle is a great rule for academic and business purposes.

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