Tag Archives: Participle

Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers…Unattached Pronouns and Distanced Antecedents…Dirty Dangling Participles…and Other Messy Mouthfuls.

Welcome back to Raya’s Dungeon.  Today we are visiting Chamber 3:  MUTILATED, MISPLACED AND MISSING MODIFIERS…UNATTACHED PRONOUNS AND DISTANCED ANTECEDENTS…DIRTY DANGLING PARTICIPLES…AND OTHER MESSY MOUTHFULS.  We’ll have four visits altogether.  If you are stout of heart and not squeamish at the sight of a writer’s life’s blood, after a brief introduction, we will be visiting *gasp* Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers.

By popular request, Raya’s Dungeon is featuring a selection of side-splitting and highly inaccurate offerings to illustrate what exactly a misplaced modifier, unattached pronoun, and a dangling participle are.

 

 
 

Man trying to communicate

Before we dive into our mirthful mayhem, let’s take a look at what writing is supposed to do. Anyone? Anyone know what writing is supposed to do? hmmmmm…yes, entertain, that’s a good one. Yup, inform. But what is the basic thing that writing needs to achieve. YES!!! oh yes!! *pumps fist in the air* COMMUNICATE…the more clearly the better. If we don’t communicate, we don’t…really, we don’t exist. We can do all we want but where is the satisfaction unless we communicate? Humans are social creatures and, without communication, our existence is solitary and to some extent unfulfilling.

And we writers…we are the communicators. So let’s all repeat the Hippocratic oath of writing…I promise to excise dirty dangling participles, to exterminate uncoordinated clauses and massacre misplaced modifiers. Good!!! Now on to finding out what these miscreants are.

Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers

A modifier is anything that gives some details about something else. I won’t go into whether it is adjectival or adverbial or even noun phrase modifiers, because I can hear the bodies hitting the floor as I even mention them. Instead, let’s resort to hormones…good old standbys:

Modifiers are like teenagers: they fall in love with whatever they’re next to. It’s up to you to make sure these modifiers are placed next to something they ought to modify!

Put another way, make the meaning clear, so that your readers don’t fall out of their chairs laughing, especially when you didn’t MEAN to be funny.

Here are some examples of what we’re talking about. Study each sentence in red for a minute, try to figure out WHY it’s funny, and see if you can come up with a better sentence than I have in small print beneath the original. These hilarious offerings are more common than you think; actually, mending mutilated modifiers could become a life-long hobby.  By the way, ALL the examples are advertisements or signs taken from real life…

A superb and inexpensive restaurant. Fine food expertly served by waitresses in appetizing forms. (So don’t drool on the waitresses.)

A superb and inexpensive restaurant. Fine food in appetizing forms, expertly served by our waitresses. (Okay, I got a little creative here, but the meaning is much clearer now, albeit not quite so funny.)

For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers. 
(How rude!)

For sale: an antique desk with thick legs and large drawers, suitable for lady.

Wanted. Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink. (Good lord, what are the other cows like?)

Wanted. Man who does not smoke or drink, to take care of cow.

Have several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition. (Way to go, granny!)

Have several very old dresses in beautiful condition from grandmother.

Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating. (Nothing like beating those round-bottomed cooks!)

Mixing bowl set designed with round bottom for efficient beating to please a cook.

3-year-old teacher need for pre-school. Experience preferred. (Is it just me or are teachers getting younger and younger?)

Pre-school teacher needed for 3-year-olds. Experience preferred.

Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community. (Don’t go away mad, k?)

Remember in prayer the many of our church and community who are sick.

On a New York convalescent home: “For the sick and tired of the Episcopal Church.” (They have homes for this?)

On a New York convalescent home: “For Episcopal Church parishioners who are tired and sick.” (This one is tricky…I would actually rewrite this whole thing, but I suspect they wanted to conserve space).

 
 

Dancing Bones

Notice sent to residents of a Wiltshire parish: DUE TO INCREASING PROBLEMS WITH LETTER LOUTS AND VANDALS WE MUST ASK ANYONE WITH RELATIVES BURIED IN THE GRAVEYARD TO DO THEIR BEST TO KEEP THEM IN ORDER
 
 

 

. (Nothing worse than hootenannies in the graveyard — and what the heck is a letter lout??)

Notice sent to residents of a Wiltshire parish: DUE TO INCREASING PROBLEMS WITH LETTER LOUTS AND VANDALS, WE MUST ASK ANYONE WITH RELATIVES BURIED IN THE GRAVEYARD TO DO THEIR BEST TO KEEP THE GRAVE PLOTS IN ORDER.

 I bet you get the idea by now. All of the above examples were misplaced modifiers.

 

* Lonely Hearts Club for Unattached Pronouns (aka “Distanced Antecedents) – Part 2 to follow tomorrow.
* Missing or Mutilated Modifiers – Part 3.
* Dirty Dangling Participles – Part 4.

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WELCOME TO RAYA’S DUNGEON – CHAMBER 01 – PART 1

Welcome to Raya’s Dungeon

Chamber 01 – Part 1

Raya’s Pleasure Palace of Perfect Punctuation
Portraying
Positioning Pathetic Parenthetical Phrases Properly

 

Two pathetic participles waiting to dangle.

Ever see a naked parenthesis? A dangling participle? A traumatized comma? All of these shocking items will be exposed in….RAYA’S DUNGEON GEON geon

Okay, cheesie – but it got your attention…otherwise most people won’t come within ten feet of grammar and punctuation guidelines….AHAH! caught you yawning already!

 I am only gonna deal with one item today…one that I see a lot of writers having trouble with…mostly because I think some of you don’t understand some of the principles behind grammar and/or punctuation. (Or maybe your English teacher was a witch who gave broomsticks a bad name.)  

PATHETIC PARENTHETICAL PHRASES 

The branches of a lone Joshua tree enclosing and separating a part of the moody sky from the rest of the prairie wilderness.

Everyone knows what parentheses are ( ) – those are parentheses. They are used to enclose and separate, modify without being obtrusive, keep the flow and provide additional information; oh, and yeah, to make smiley faces.

There are also other means of creating parenthetical phrases:
– with the double dash
–like this–
– and with ellipses
like this(please note there are ONLY three dots in the ellipse and no spaces on either side)
– a final and very acceptable way is with commas, like this, see?

It is almost like coding. If you start a parenthetical phrase with one of its codes, you must end it with that same code. Thus, if you are wise, you will remember to open and close your parenthetical phrase. The codes, in this case, are either the parentheses ( ), the em dash or double dash (–), the ellipse (…), and the comma (,).

What is a parenthetical phrase? And why should I care? Basically a parenthetical phrase is a modifier…a phrase that increases understanding of whatever it is referring to. How do you know it’s a parenthetical phrase? Because, if you take it away from the sentence, the sentence will still stand on its own. And you should care because I said so and will toss you into the deepest…er…because a parenthetical phrase enriches your writing and is a tool to help you create your own unique style.

Polly, wanting a cracker, started to sing. The parenthetical phrase there (in italics) could be removed and the sentence, although not as rich as with the parenthetical phrase, would still stand alone. You can see that you could substitute any of the other parenthetical signifiers.

"No more singing. Gimme the damn cracker."

Polly (wanting a cracker) started to sing. Doesn’t look as good though. Using parentheses for parenthetical phrases makes it seem like you don’t really want to come right out and say it. It gives the appearance of being shy…and sometimes disorganized. Which is good, if that is the energy you want to portray, right?

Polly–wanting a cracker–started to sing. Yeah, it works, but I still prefer commas. This style is a little more abrupt and intrusive.

Polly…wanting a cracker…started to sing. Sounds like a James T. Kirk speech, but it works, better than the other two anyhow, and almost as good as the commas. Shows more hesitancy or pauses before and after the parenthetical phrase.

Which style of parenthetical phrase you use depends on the mood you are trying to convey in your writing. Keep in mind that, whichever set of parenthetical signifiers you use, you don’t have to use any others at that point, i.e. you don’t need to use parentheses AND commas…one set of signifiers will be enough. Otherwise you are mixing your code up.

I urge writers to start experimenting. One of the things you are gonna work up is your own unique style. I mostly use commas and ellipses (…) – and that is part of my style. A crisper style might use commas or the double dash (–), and the more scientific style might use the parentheses ( ). Experiment and see which suits you and which suits the mood of the piece you are writing.