non sequitur

A reader asks:

The following sentence has been supplied by a client to use in a print project.
A) The Application Form a person who wishes to make a claim will use

I know it’s wrong and I think I know how it should read, but what I don’t know is what this kind of dreadful sentence is called. I used to work for someone who, I’m sure, had a name for it. A nonsec…….? Can you tell me please.

I’ve just found the site and am facinated. Thanks for being there!

It’s hard to know how to respond most appropriately to the question without more context, but I’ll do my best.

non sequitur

I’m guessing that the word you are searching for is non sequitur, although I don’t think it necessarily applies here. Non sequitur is a Latin term meaning “does not follow” (which makes sense if we notice the relationship between “sequitur” and “sequence”). In a written argument, a non sequitur is a fallacy that occurs when the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises, or to put it another way, when the evidence does not support the claim. It’s a fairly general term that could apply to a number of scenarios, but typically they involve some sort of claim.

Example of non sequitur:
Steven Johnson grew up in poverty. Therefore, he will make a fine President of the United States.

As you can see, the conclusion (he will make a fine President) does not follow the premise (Steven Johnson grew up in poverty). One could certainly argue that Mr. Johnson’s childhood experiences have influenced his worldview, and that his worldview will help shape his policies, and that his policies will be beneficial to the well being of all Americans—and then provide evidence to support the intermediate claims. But that’s not what is going on in the example argument. We can’t logically conclude that a person’s performance as President is a direct result of his or her childhood financial status.

What’s Wrong with the Sentence

From what I can tell, the example you provide is an “acceptable” fragment—rather than a sentence, per se—because it appears to belong in a list of items that is probably preceded by the beginning of the sentence (for example, with “Every insurance agent needs:”). Although I don’t see anything grammatically wrong with it, I agree that it could use some revision. The absence of “that” following “Application Form” is grammatically acceptable, but its inclusion would help make the meaning more clear. So, the sentence would look like this:

[Every insurance agent needs] the application form that a person who wishes to make a claim will use.

I’m not satisfied with this revision, though, because we still have an adjective clause (“who wishes to make a claim”) embedded within another adjective clause (“that a person who wishes to make a claim”), which makes that part of the sentence a little unwieldy.

Revision Options

There are plenty of ways to revise this sentence, depending on its context. Here are a few options:

  • [This is] the application form to use if a person wishes to make a claim.
  • [This is] the application form to use for a person who wishes to make a claim.
  • [This is] the application form a person will use if he or she wishes to make a claim.
  • [This is] the application form a person will use to make a claim.

Thank you for the question. I hope you find the answer helpful. Further questions related to this article can be posted in the comment form.

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2 Responses to non sequitur

  1. david Thomson says:

    What’s wrong with this sentence. can anyone help?
    The coveted award was accepted by Sang’s daughter, Olivia, who was deeply touched, and visibly moved, by the tribute to her father.

  2. Benjamin says:

    I think maybe you’re a bit comma happy. Seperating Olivia from her qualifyer as Sang’s daughter confuses things. Also, putting the subject in the middle of the sentance may be problematic.
    Sang’s daughter Olivia, on accepting the coveted award, was deeply touched and visibly moved by the tribute to her father.