Assumed Agreement

As a copy editor, you have probably come across the term “assumed agreement” more than a few times. This linguistic phenomenon is also known as “implied agreement” and occurs when two or more nouns in a sentence are not explicitly connected by a conjunction or preposition.

Assumed agreement can be a tricky issue for writers and editors alike. On the one hand, it can make sentences appear more compact and concise. On the other hand, it can also create ambiguity and confusion, especially when it comes to subject-verb agreement.

For instance, consider the following sentence:

“The dog chased the cat and caught its tail.”

At first glance, this sentence seems straightforward enough. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that “its” could refer to either the dog or the cat. This is because the sentence is missing a conjunction or preposition that would explicitly connect “cat” and “tail.”

To avoid assumed agreement and ensure clarity in your writing, it`s important to pay close attention to your subject-verb agreement. This means making sure that your subject and verb agree in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third).

For example:

– Incorrect: The group of students were divided in their opinions.

– Correct: The group of students was divided in its opinions.

In the incorrect sentence, “group” is treated as a plural noun, which creates a disagreement with the singular verb “were.” In the corrected sentence, “group” is treated as a singular noun, which agrees with the singular verb “was.”

Another way to avoid assumed agreement is to use connectors such as conjunctions or prepositions to explicitly connect your nouns. For example:

– Assumed agreement: The car hit the tree and broke its windshield.

– Clarified agreement: The car hit the tree, and the impact broke its windshield.

By explicitly connecting “tree” and “windshield,” the corrected sentence avoids the ambiguity introduced by assumed agreement.

In summary, assumed agreement can be a useful tool for concise writing, but it can also create confusion and ambiguity. To avoid this problem, pay close attention to your subject-verb agreement and consider using connectors to explicitly connect your nouns. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and easy to understand.