Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 2 May 2014

Beware the Non-Sequitur

Of course we all do it. We all speak in non-sequiturs all the time. Sometimes we do it accidentally, mostly probably. Once in a while we do it deliberately, for effect.

The non-sequitur can be a delight; it can be hilarious. I’m a bit of a fan.

I recently saw this non-sequitur on FaceBook:

Chris Martin: Chris Martin Blames Self for Split With Gwyneth, Loves One Direction (Rolling Stone)

The Latest Issue of Rolling Stone
I’m sure Rolling Stone asked Chris Martin questions about his ‘conscious uncoupling’ from Gwyneth Paltrow, and I’m equally sure that the interviewer from the magazine asked about the Colplay frontman’s taste in current popular music. What I’m not sure about is that the reason the two split up was because Chris Martin loves the boy band One Direction.

Of course, and despite their flocks of young female followers, all boy bands have a touch of the homoerotic about them, but I’m guessing this isn’t that. A grown woman might be surprised by her 37 year old husband’s music choices when they include stuff squarely aimed at the teeny bopper market (do they even call them that any more?), but I’m guessing this isn’t that either.

This is a fine example of the non-sequitur. It’s also my reason for writing this blog.

I don’t know who wrote this strap line for my FaceBook feed, or how it was generated, come to think about it. I only know that I read it and laughed. I don’t know whether it was intended as a non-sequitur or to make me laugh. I also don’t know how Rolling Stone or the person who wrote the interview feel about it. I don’t know if they feel they’ve been made fools of. I’m guessing probably not.

They might not be bothered. They might not care. They might have generated the line in the first instance.

Here’s the thing though: I care!

Here’s what I care about. I care about grammar.

Clearly the point of this strap line was concision. There were only so many words available. The content of the interview had to be put across in a limited space, and it had to appeal to readers. It was an advert for the article.

I didn’t click on the link and read the interview. I didn’t do it for two reasons. Firstly, the blurb actually gave away too much information. The line could have read:

Chris Martin: Reveals Who Was To Blame For Split, And His Music Tastes (Rolling Stone)

The second reason was that daft non-sequitur. OK, it made me laugh, but it also made me think that the writing would be bloody awful, that the article might be unreadable. I couldn’t be bothered to find out. Even if we accept that the reader wants to know the content of the interview before reading it, the line could still have read:

          Chris Martin: Chris Martin Blames Self for Marriage Split. Also Loves One Direction (Rolling Stone)

You see... Not that difficult.

And, let’s face it, there might just be the odd reader who’d end up very disappointed. There might be the odd reader who followed the link expecting to read a salacious exposé of Chris Martin doing unspeakably delicious things with the five glorious boys from a certain boy band, and no one wants that on his conscience, surely?


  1. You wrote:
    "The non-sequitur can be a delight; it can be hilarious. I’m a bit of a fan"
    or, you could have written:
    " I’m a bit of a fan of non-sequiturs which can be a delight and also hilarious."

    Pot. Black. ?

  2. You wrote:
    "The non-sequitur can be a delight; it can be hilarious. I’m a bit of a fan"
    or, you could have written:
    " I’m a bit of a fan of non-sequiturs which can be a delight and also hilarious."

    You need a period after fan, an upper-case 'O' for 'or' and a comma before which… And, I'm teasing, of course.

    You're right; I could have done what you suggested, and here's why I didn't.

    I adopt a fairly conversational style for the blog. I mix up the sentence lengths. This section was at the beginning of the blog where I wanted short sentences. 'Non-sequitur', 'delight' and 'hilarious' are multi-syllable words, and I didn't want them all in one long sentence. I also wanted to separate 'delight', 'hilarious' and 'fan' and put them each at the end of a clause, for emphasis.

    Make sense?

    Your choice is correct, but it's also formal, which doesn't suit the style of this blog, all of the long words appear in one sentence, which makes the content less pithy, and 'delight' is buried in the middle of the sentence, which makes it lose any impact it might have had.