I have the following sentence,

NAME is a community that helps each other code better by rating each other's efforts and helps managers pair with other fellow developers

I was suggested by the community that the sentence is stylistically poor because the two elements in the sentence are of different syntactic/semantic type.

Hence, I have tried to break up the sentence by producing

NAME is a community that helps its members code better by rating each other's efforts. It also helps managers pair with other fellow developers

The issue is that I feel there is something odd there, from a writing perspective. It is intended to be a subheading, so I am trying to keep it concise.

1 Answer 1


The problem you're having is in attaching the final clause:

NAME is...that helps...by rating...and helps... .

When the reader gets to the "and" he's expecting it to bind to the "by" -- NAME helps by doing two things, rating and...helping. But the next word is "helps", which doesn't fit that pattern. So the reader has to mentally backtrack and conclude that instead of:

Clause (that helps by (A and B))

he's looking at:

Clause that (helps by A) and (B)

This can be jarring anywhere, but it's especially disruptive in technical writing where the writing is usually more precise and careful than in, say, fiction. The readers of technical documentation sometimes also read specifications, requirements, interface designs -- all areas where precise bindings of phrases and specific word choices matter. Now in the case of your example that binding question is only a distraction; it would be more severe if you instead had something like this:

Perform an emergency shutdown of the nuclear power plant by frobbing the widget and twiddle the doohickey.

Is "twiddle the doohickey" part of the process of shutting down the power plant, or is it a separate, later step? This is the structural problem in your example, though I trust that your readers will have fewer safety concerns.

If you mean to say that the community helps its members code better by (something else and) helping managers pair with fellow developers (i.e. helping managers is part of making members code better), the minimum change to make that work would be to change "help" to "helping", for parallelism with "rating". But I'd massage it further; the double "help"/"helping" feels repetitive, and arguably you'd want a second "by" because of the length of the first clause.

Your first version presents two clauses with equal intended weight -- two ways that the community does what you say it does. Your rewrite makes one of those reasons primary and one secondary, by moving the latter into a new sentence and saying "also". If the manager part really is secondary, then your rewrite is fine. If both are meant to be equal, though, try splitting it up differently, putting both reasons together in the same sentence:

NAME is a community that helps its members code better. It does this by having members rate each other and by helping managers to pair with other developers.

I'm focusing on the structural question here; you might want to word-smith this further.

  • @jon220 happy to help. May 29, 2016 at 22:44
  • If I could kindly ask you one small thing if you don't mind. Let's say I wanted to put more emphasis on "helping managers to pair with other developers" since I feel Hiring Managers can’t always identify a good software developer from a bad one, but other developers can. How would I re-word the sentence to do so. Would "NAME is a community that helps its members code better. It does this by helping managers to pair with other developers and by having members rate each other" be enough to make it clear where the emphasis is?
    – jon220
    Jun 1, 2016 at 23:44
  • @jon220 sure, you could do that -- even when the clauses are equal, people will tend to notice the first one more. So if you want to emphasize one of them more than the other, put it first. Jun 2, 2016 at 1:38

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