A good speech requires good grammar and word economy. Good grammar shows you paid attention in school and know how to use the language properly. Word economy shows you’ve thought about and revised your text so as not to waste even a second of your listeners’ valuable time.

One small step toward better grammar and word economy is the elimination of the “By…, it…” construction. Today’s example comes from this news article:

By moving thousands of feet of railroad tracks, it‘ll open up 20 acres of land for the redevelopment of downtown.

The grammatical problem: what is it? The subject of this sentence, represented by the pronoun it, will apparently “move thousands of feet of railroad tracks” and thus be able to “open up 20 acres of land.” But nowhere are we told who it is. Without knowing what it is, the initial prepositional/gerund phrase doesn’t have a clear subject with which to connect. This sentence stumbles into the room like a pair of untied shoes.

The speaker isn’t specifically referring to an entity that will do both actions. The speaker is saying that the first action will result in the second action. If anything, it represents “moving thousands of feet of railroad tracks.” In that case, the speaker is stacking a pronoun and an antecedent on top of each other, which in English is just flat bad (akin to saying “John he went to the store” or “Mary she don’t study grammar much”).

The proper form saves words:

Moving thousands of feet of railroad tracks will open up 20 acres of land for the redevelopment of downtown.

Now if you really, really wanted to, you could name the agent of action:

The city public works department will open up 20 acres of land for the redevelopment of downtown by moving thousands of feet of railroad tracks.

There’s nothing wrong with that wording, but the addition seems to change the speaker’s intent, just a little. The first proper version emphasizes the action and result; the second version gives the actor some attention. Both beat the original on grammar by getting rid of the detached prepositional phrase and the vague pronoun.

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