Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Grammar mini-moment: misplaced modifiers

This isn’t a full-fledged grammar lesson. But it is a warning that when you put a descriptive element into a sentence, you should be sure it’s clear what the descriptive element refers to.

From last night’s television news: “A University of New Mexico student was saved from being raped by a police officer who just happened to show up at the right place and time.”

From this evening’s television news: “A woman at a Wal-Mart was saved by a fellow customer who shot the attacker with a knife.”

I’m sure the people who wrote those news stories didn’t intend for readers to believe the police officer was a rapist, or that the Wal-Mart customer was somehow able to use a knife as a firearm. But the placement of the descriptive phrases leaves the reader guessing exactly what the writer means. You don’t want your reader to guess what you mean; you want to make the meaning perfectly clear. Thus, you must be sure that when you use a descriptive element, you must also make sure that it’s clear what that element is describing.

4 Comments:

Blogger Doctor Pants said...

I'm back! Great lesson.

I heard this on TV yesterday, "I'm not wearing any pants, details at 11." Is this correct?


Keep em coming Carol Anne. :)

Fri Aug 26, 02:44:00 PM MDT  
Blogger nbk said...

I love your examples. Hope you're saving these mini-moments for a mini-book!

Fri Aug 26, 07:46:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous pL said...

I thought it was "I'm not wearing any pants, film at 11."

This, aside from Malopropisms, is my favorite part of Grammar!

Sat Aug 27, 07:00:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Doctor Pants said...

Malopropisms?! I use them to make a light chicken gravy during the holidays...

Sat Aug 27, 09:35:00 AM MDT  

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