A Man Walks Into a Bar – Riff #7

A misplaced modifier walks into a bar
owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

Looking for love in all the wrong places, eh?

Well, not exactly. But looking for meaning can be a challenge, too, when the words are in all the wrong places. Or even some of the wrong places.

Of all the silly mistakes I make in writing, this is one where at least I know *why* it happens: I know what I’m referring to when I add a modifier, so that should be good enough, right?

Well, not exactly. Just as staring at an offending passage on the screen doesn’t move my cursor to the right spot for deleting something, merely knowing what I mean doesn’t get the words in the right place. This is why we get others to read our stuff. Unencumbered by any knowledge of what we were thinking, they read what we actually wrote.

The good news? These mistakes are usually easy to fix, although since each one is its own beast, it’s hard to give step-by-step instructions. My general principle is to put the thing or person you’re talking about first, followed immediately by the description.

A misplaced modifier walks into a bar
owned by Ralph, a man with a glass eye.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Jim Taylor

    Love these riffs. I giggle. Okay, men aren’t supposed to giggle, but it seems ridiculous to guffaw to an empty room.

    The Editors’ Association came up with a new word, many years ago: “Gsnerk” — the sound you make when something funny strikes you and you spray your mouthful of coffee all over your computer screen. Maybe I just gsnerk.

    Jim T

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