Sunday, March 7, 2010

Today's writing tip is on misplaced modifiers.

What is a misplaced modifier? It's a word that modifies (or clarifies or qualifies) the wrong thing. Here's an example: "Joe almost barbecued all of the chicken." What is the writer trying to say here? "Almost barbecued" means that the food was only half done. Was the chicken raw? Unlikely. The writer probably meant to say, "Joe barbecued almost all of the chicken." That means that there was still some chicken that hadn't been barbecued.

Just recently, I told a friend I had enjoyed visiting my brother and hanging out in his garden with the dog and his wife. When did the dog suddenly get a wife? I was just too lazy to correct that sentence in e-mail but it should have read, "I had fun hanging out in my brother's garden, talking to his wife and playing with the dog." Then no one would be confused about the marital status of dogs.

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