Squaw Peak (pictured) in Phoenix, Arizona, is now officially called “Piestewa Peak.” The Wikipedia entry for the mountain includes this passage:
“Since at least 1910, the name Squaw Peak had been used in reference to the mountain. Other historic names included Squaw Tit Mountain, Phoenix Mountain and Vainom Do’ag, the Pima name for the mountain. As the term “squaw” is considered derogatory by some, numerous efforts to change the name of the mountain were made through the years. State Representative Jack Jackson, himself a Navajo, submitted a bill to change the name annually beginning in 1992, which generated repeated and often raw debates in Arizona.” (A footnote omitted.)When the reader encounters the adverb “annually,” he may at first assume it modifies the closest verb, “change,” as in “change the name annually.” He may assume that there were several political factions, each vehemently pushing its own replacement name, and that Mr. Jackson wished to appease them all by rotating the names annually.*
However, when the reader encounters “beginning in 1992, which generated repeated and often raw debates in Arizona,” he is fairly certain that “annually” actually modifies “submitted,” even though “change” stands between “submitted” and “annually.” A clearer version would have been:
State Representative Jack Jackson, himself a Navajo, has since 1992 annually submitted a bill to change the name. The bill has generated repeated and often raw debates in Arizona.It’s not perfectly elegant, but it’s clear.
The Takeaway: Place every modifier as close as possible to what it modifies. Don’t make your readers work harder to read a sentence than you worked to write it.
*Don’t laugh – Arizona legislators have done stranger things. For example, they made it illegal for a donkey to sleep in a bathtub. (Source)