Syntax. It may sound like a boring grammar term, but correct syntax can mean the difference between an accurate message and utter humiliation.
What is syntax? In short, syntax is the order or arrangement of words. Bad syntax can lead to embarrassing or incorrect statements. Case in point:
More embarrassing mistakes
A couple of years ago, the Associated Press infamously tweeted:
Because of the word order, this made it sound like the plane had crashed, resulting in mass Twitter confusion:
(Yes, crash-lands would have been hyphenated as a verb, but that didn’t prevent the mistake from going viral.) To clarify, the AP later tweeted: Dutch military plane carrying Malaysia Airlines bodies lands in Eindhoven.
In short, syntax matters. Here are a couple more examples.
Politicians will speak about terrorism at the rally.
Why it’s confusing: Most likely, the writer does not mean that terrorist attacks occurred at the rally, but people could interpret it that way.
How to fix it: At the rally, politicians will speak about terrorism.
Archaeologists excavated the site where the ancient temple was built in 2013.
Why it’s confusing: This makes it sound like the ancient temple was built in 2013, but it’s the excavation that was done in 2013.
How to fix it: In 2013, archaeologists excavated the site where the ancient temple was built.