Friday, June 10, 2005

Watch Those Modifiers!

Someone who felt that men were treated unfairly in his department complained to me about his dilemma, but I could not help laughing when I read what he had written:

Where I work more men lift cartons than women.

What a strange place to work. I wonder if deciding which men get to lift the women is based on seniority. Surely, the complainant meant to write:

Where I work more men than women lift cartons.

Just by changing the position of the phrase than women, he would have achieved clarity. This error, known as a misplaced modifier, is easy to make--especially when writing quickly and not taking the time to edit.

Here is an example of a dangling modifier, a word or phrase attached to a sentence without connecting logically to it:

After raining for five minutes, I decided to leave the park.

This sounds like he had a drippy bladder. He could get arrested for doing that in public! Solution:

After it rained for five minutes, I decided to leave the park.

Editing takes time--but it's time well spent. Keep words and phrases as close as possible to the words they describe. We all want our readers to focus on our meaning, not to chuckle at our blunders.