incomplete comparison


how to review the section below to avoid incomplete comparison

See example:

This study seeks to investigate from teachers experiences in teaching English second language learners using English as a medium of instruction whether the bilingualism that is promoted by South African language policy is effectively implemented to achieve higher educational outcomes in our education system.
asked Nov 01 '12 at 13:15 Patrick Mweli New member

2 answers


As a strict rule, whenever you use a comparative word -- higher, better, more -- you should also explain "than" what in the same sentence. Often, however, the comparison is explained by the context, and the strict rule seems nitpicky.


In your sentence, the problem can be "fixed" by using a different, non-comparative, word -- perhaps, "improved".


Your sentence, however, has another, more basic problem. It is too long and  too wordy. I struggle to read and comprehend what is being said. Your sentence has 45 words. Good concise writing wants to average around 17.5 words per sentence (with a high of around 30 words). Academic writing may get as high as 22.5 words per sentence (with a high of 35 words in the longest sentence). Consider either trimming words or breaking your sentence into two.

Another part of the issue is the overuse of propositional and infinitive phrases -- one strung after the other. In the following, I will use () to indicate infinitive phrases and <> to indicate prepositional phrases.


This study seeks (to investigate) <from teachers experiences> <in teaching English second language learners using English <as a medium> <of instruction> whether the bilingualism that is promoted <by South African language policy> is effectively implemented (to achieve) higher educational outcomes <in our education system.>


As an editorial guideline, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends that preposition usage be between seven and ten percent of the total words in the text. In your sentence, prepositions represent 13.3% (if infinitive noun phrases are included, 17.7%). You need to strive to use fewer such phrases.


Teachers should be the plural possessive --> teachers'


I hope this helps.

link comment edited Nov 01 '12 at 14:56 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Software can only detect patterns using rules it has been given.  It cannot understand context.  It might be noticing the word "higher" and looking for a comparison to something lower. In that light, you can ignore the suggestion to complete the comparison since you are talking about higher education.  The software might be looking for something to go along with the word whether.  There should be an "or" in there somewhere. 


Your sentence has a much bigger problem, though.  I can't follow what you are really trying to say in this run-on sentence.  What is it that this study seeks to investigate?  Try breaking this up into two or more sentences and use appropriate punctuation. 

link comment answered Nov 01 '12 at 14:34 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.