Misplaced modifiers. The bane of writers and editors everywhere, from what I can tell.
“Even though he had practiced the trick for months, the rope failed at the last moment.”
Um . . . not quite. The rope hadn’t practiced (obviously, or it wouldn’t have failed, would it?). The fellow performing the rope trick had practiced, apparently to no avail. This is a misplaced modifier. More often than not in my experience fixing one of these requires rewording at least the latter part of the sentence. Here’s how I chose to fix this instance:
“Even though he had practiced the trick for months, he was unprepared for the rope to fail at the last moment.”
When that rope fails, who’ll fall over?
I didn’t expect to find GRAMMARGEDDON! fodder this early in my day, nor did I expect to find it in the blog of a typographer/book designer. But, then again, in my experience typographers aren’t editors, usually. So–on with the post.
Dangling modifiers are annoying creatures. They cause the astute reader to stop and ask questions about what’s being said, questions that wouldn’t occur to the reader if that modifier had been corrected by some method or other. Here’s the one that stopped me this morning:
“As a pastor, commercially available Bible studies were just as bad.”
Hm. The pastor is not a study. The pastor is the person who may well purchase books or studies. The sentence would have been better phrased thus: “As a pastor, I found the commercially available Bible studies were just as bad.” “As a pastor” then modifies–correctly–the subject of the sentence.
The blog entry is one I found very interesting, truth to tell. I’m going to bookmark it, so I can return later and read it thoroughly. You see, just because I find a grammatical error that should really have been caught (even by a piece of software, if not a real live person) does not mean I then invalidate the source entirely and proclaim it to be garbage.
Here’s the link, for anyone who wants to know more about “Writing in InDesign.”