Submitted by debbied on June 23, 2010

The following is... vs. Following is...

In the interest of being concise, is it acceptable to use “Following is a complete list of tags...” instead of “The following is a complete list of tags...”

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Blake, while "list of tags" is singular, just "tags" is plural. For brevity, with contraction, it should be "here're your tags", not "here's your tags". I've noticed that this particular case mismatch has become very common, though I wouldn't call it standard English just yet. Even the strictest grammarians I know do this all the time (they don't even realize it and vigorously deny doing so:). I try not to, but even I do it sometimes. I see it much less frequently in writing than in speaking,

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You see in the English language, when we make a statement it usually has the structure Subject Verb Object, or SVO for short. I realize you probably don't have a lot of experience using the English language and I respect your desire to learn more. However, the sentence you have proposed is grammatically identical to saying, "Seeing is John." John is the subject of the sentence as is "a complete list of tags." Thus this is what is initially written. Next you made the mistake of putting the auxiliary AFTER the gerund verb. You see in English this construction equates to saying "the tags are in a state of following," as apposed to "the tags in a state of following are." The latter is not a prescriptive, colloquial, nor even dialectal construction. It is what is referred to as "talking like Yoda." Yoda is a character from the popular cinematic science-fiction franchise known collectively as 'Star Wars.' In the 'Star Wars' movies, Yoda is a wise, old extraterrestrial. His abnormal manner of speech makes him seem more 'alien.' In fact, by using Gerund-Auxiliary-Subject sentence constructions in the English language, you will in fact sound even more alien than Yoda, because even he knew that the subject goes at the beginning of the sentence.

So, what you're trying to say is, "a complete list of tags is following" or more idiomatically, "a complete list of tags follows." This is because the present progressive verb tense is unnecessary, seeing as the list is not only following at the present, but rather always follows.

Since you were going for brevity, I would go with, "here's all your tags," or even just, "here's your tags," I you think the person, to whom you are speaking, trust you enough not to gyp them out of some of the tags and keep them for yourself.

Good luck with your studies, and I hope that you get to visit America sometime and put everything that you learn to practice.

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Conciseness should not trump clarity. The construct "following is" risks what Bryan Garner calls a "miscue:"

"A miscue is an inadvertent misdirection that causes the reader to proceed momentarily with an incorrect assumption about how—in mechanics or in sense—a sentence or passage will end." (A Dictionary of Modern American Usage)

In the phrase "the following is" the word "following is clearly a noun: it owns an article. But when a sentence begins "Following is..." the reader might expect the sentence to be about the nature of following. The common phrase "the following is" (or are) avoids this possibility.

But "the following is/are" is a hackneyed phrase, like "enclosed please find," and should be avoided. In the interest of conciseness write "Here is a complete list of tags..." Then follow with a complete list of tags.

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