One advantage Web scrolling has over reading something in print is that you don’t have to wait to find out how a sentence will end. The pause is only momentary in a book as your index finger turns the page. But it can be quite long in a newspaper or magazine that “jumps” stories to a nonconsecutive page. The jump from Page One creates an especially lengthy caesura, sometimes dispatching you to another section entirely. While you blacken your fingers riffling absent-mindedly for Page D24, your critical faculties may engage just long enough to glean from the incomplete sentence the presence of cliché, clumsy phrasing, infelicitous juxtaposition, unsound logic, or the absence of any meaning at all. These vices, all standard to journalism, usually slip past unnoticed, but the pause makes them shiver nakedly in the mind’s eye. If the writing is really bad, you may consciously form the thought, “William Shakespeare couldn’t rescue this jump.”
One such maladroit pre-jump half-sentence appears in the Feb. 3 New York Times, in a Page One story headlined, “A Winning Kerry Loosens Up, and Crowds React.” The writer is Todd S. Purdum:
As a lonely 11-year-old in a Swiss boarding school, or a Navy lieutenant in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, or a senator from Massachusetts and a presidential contender, Kerry has seldom lacked ______________________.
The missing portion (on Page A18 of the Washington Final) is “a sense that the world is mad.” The thought is completed by the sentence, “The gift of laughter has come harder.” Purdum has previously explained that John Kerry’s favorite movie as a boy was Scaramouche, the 1952 swashbuckler based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel of the same name, which famously begins, “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” (Sabatini’s next sentence, which doesn’t transfer at all well to Kerry, is “And that was all his patrimony.”)
Readers are invited to submit a humorous ending to Purdum’s interrupted sentence. You may use as many words as you like, and may add a sentence or two at the end to complete the thought. Send all entries under the subject heading, “jump,” to firstname.lastname@example.org.