Thursday, September 19, 2013

Placement of modifiers (24)

Careless placement of a modifier can make a sentence unclear or unintentionally comical.


“Monthly electricity bills in Panama City are left at the entry to apartment buildings which can be lost or misplaced forcing most customers to use their online billing and payment services.” (Source)
[The modifier “which can be lost or misplaced” immediately follows “apartment buildings,” implying that apartment buildings can be lost or misplaced.] 

“He was thought to be mentally retarded until the age of seven. However, after six weeks of schooling his father overheard him repeating his multiplication tables.” (Source) (Link and footnote omitted)
[The modifier “after six weeks of schooling” appears to modify the nearby verb “overheard,” implying that the father had only six weeks of schooling.]

“I’m going to do my best to explain why objectification can’t be a valid theory and doesn’t in any way establish the need for any social and political movement pitting the genders against each other at as purely practical a level as I can manage.” (Source)
[The modifier “at as purely practical a level as I can manage” begins 27 words after the verb it modifies, “explain.” Most readers will have to re-read the sentence in order to recognize what the modifier is modifying.]

Inside Job is a 2010 documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis directed by Charles H. Ferguson.” (Source) (Links omitted)
[The modifier “directed by Charles H. Ferguson” immediately follows “financial crisis,” implying that Mr. Ferguson somehow directed that financial crisis.]
The Takeaway: Place every modifier as close as possible to what it modifies. Forcing your readers to mentally correct your grammar is unprofessional and inconsiderate.

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