My editing-Twitter colleague @SheckyX gave me the idea for this post earlier this week, when he responded to a tweet of mine. It was a link to an old post here, actually. He commented to me that aside from worries about putting prepositions at the end of sentences, writers might do well to consider other aspects of prepositional placement. For example, moving “on” makes a big difference between “she turned on him” and “she turned him on.”
Consider also the difference, however fine, between “a sign that said in Russian NO ADMITTANCE” and “a sign in Russian that said NO ADMITTANCE.” I say “however fine,” because I sense a difference between those that others might not. (Maybe I’m unbalanced.) To me, the first one can imply there are other languages on the sign, but in Russian it said that phrase. Maybe in Mandarin it said KEEP OUT and in German it said NO TRESPASSING. The second one is less ambiguous to me. The sign’s in Russian, period.
Then there’s the wording “would like to have known that” versus “would have liked to know that.” Again, the difference is subtle. I would like to have known the winning Powerball numbers (I wish that I had known them) so I could have guaranteed I’d win. Elton John would have liked to know Marilyn Monroe (he would have enjoyed knowing her), but he was just a kid.
I’m sure there are other examples. If you have one, by all means leave a comment. This could prove very interesting.