Dont Make Read That Sentence Again! Make your writing clear … so your readers get it the first time! by Ann Gordon

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Dont Make Read That Sentence Again! Make your writing clear so your readers get it the first time! by Ann Gordon Slide 2 2007 by Ann Gordon Writing That Stops Me Whoa! Thats what my mind says when I read something that just doesnt compute What was that? Thats what my mind says when I read a sentence that contains glaring errors Groan! Thats what I say to myself when I realize I have to go back and re-read that sentence 2 Slide 3 2007 by Ann Gordon Writing That Will Stop Your Readers When your customers, employees, or potential clients are reading something from your company, They do not want to be reading along, scanning the paragraphs, and suddenly then have their mind come to a Stop because something just didnt make sense! People want to read it, get it, and then move on to something else. People do NOT want to re-read because something was poorly written or edited 3 Slide 4 2007 by Ann Gordon The Bells of Incomprehension When the Bells of Incomprehension ring, 1. Readers with patience will go back and re- read that sentence but they arent happy about it 2. Readers without patience will ignore the bells and skip the sentence or skip the paragraph or just quit reading altogether The second choice isnt a good one for the writer, trainer, or manager -- for anyone who trying to sell or teach with their text 4 Slide 5 2007 by Ann Gordon What Causes these Bells to Ring? Some grammatical culprits are more common than others, so in this presentation, well concentrate on four of them Youll learn how to look for sentences, phrases and lists that: 1. Leave the reader dangling 2. Make the reader look for something that has been misplaced 3. Cause confusion about Who did What? 4. Create a sense of imbalance 5 Slide 6 2007 by Ann Gordon 1. Dangling Modifiers Perhaps nothing stops a reader faster than a dangling modifier Readers dont have to know what a dangling modifier IS in order to be stopped by one This is a classic example of a dangling modifier: Rushing to finish the paper, Bobs printer broke. 6 Slide 7 2007 by Ann Gordon Leaves the Reader Dangling Rushing to finish the paper, Bobs printer broke. Rushing to finish the paper is the modifier What/Who is this modifier supposed to modify? Who was rushing to finish the paper? Who was trying to print when Bobs printer broke? We dont know the answers to these questions Dangling means the modifier doesnt have a proper subject to modify 7 Slide 8 2007 by Ann Gordon Sentences Left to Dangle Like a loose rope, these modifiers are left dangling : 1. Passing the building, the advertisement was clearly visible. 2. Driving north, the vegetation became increasingly sparse. 3. Walking along the beach, the sun rose majestically over the ocean. In these sentences, the modifier has nothing suitable to modify All of these sentences leave the reader dangling 8 Slide 9 2007 by Ann Gordon Dont Leave the Reader Dangling Lets fix those sentences: 1. Passing the building, the advertisement was clearly visible. As she passed the building, the advertisement was clearly visible. 2. Driving north, the vegetation became increasingly sparse. Driving north, we noticed that the vegetation became increasingly sparse. 3. Walking along the beach, the sun rose majestically over the ocean. As John walked along the beach, the sun rose majestically over the ocean. 9 Slide 10 2007 by Ann Gordon What to Look For Dangling modifiers often occur: With participial phrases With infinitive phrases With prepositional phrases containing a gerund Active Counts! Dangling modifiers occur most often when the main clause verb is passive (instead of active) 10 Slide 11 2007 by Ann Gordon How to Fix the Danglers Revise the sentences to recast the verbs and subjects as active If the modifier lacks a subject of its own, identify what it describes Change the subject of the main clause Rewrite the dangling modifier as a complete clause with its own stated (not implied) subject and verb 11 Slide 12 2007 by Ann Gordon Fix these Sentences Exercise 1. After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing. 2. Relieved of your responsibilities at work, your home should be a place to relax. 3. They failed the experiment, not having studied the lab manual carefully. 4. To improve his results, the experiment was performed again. 12 Slide 13 2007 by Ann Gordon Moving on to Another Modifier 13 Okay, enough info about dangling modifiers Now, lets look at their close cousin, another sentence problem that will Stop your readers: Misplaced Modifiers Slide 14 2007 by Ann Gordon 2. Misplaced Modifiers A misplaced modifier DOES have a subject to which it can attach Thus, misplaced modifiers arent exactly dangling However, these modifiers have attached themselves to the wrong word Thats why theyre considered misplaced 14 Slide 15 2007 by Ann Gordon Misplacing a Modifier The sales rep placed the promotional merchandise in the van that he had just received from the company. 15 We say a modifier is misplaced if It appears to modify the wrong part of the sentence Or, We are not certain WHAT it is supposed to modify For example, in the following sentence, did the sales rep receive the merchandise or the van? Slide 16 2007 by Ann Gordon Some Obvious Misplaced Modifiers Check out the modifiers in these sentences: 1. Here are some suggestions for handling obscene complaint calls from corporate headquarters. (ouch ) 2. The district managers discussed the high cost of living with two women sales reps. (uh oh ) 3. Singing for all she was worth, Johnny hoped desperately that Margaret would win the competition. (huh ??) 16 Well fix these on page 19 Slide 17 2007 by Ann Gordon Keep an Eye on All Your Modifiers As a writer, remember to keep a watchful eye on all of the modifiers in all of your sentences Misplaced modifiers can be Confusing Illogical Laughable Costly 17 Slide 18 2007 by Ann Gordon Putting Modifiers In Their Place Our minds want to link a modifier to the nearest word that it could possibly modify Often, this isnt the right word Confusing: She served hamburgers to the men on paper plates. Much better: She served the men hamburgers on paper plates. 18 Slide 19 2007 by Ann Gordon Fixing Misplaced Modifiers 1. Here are some suggestions for handling obscene complaint calls from corporate headquarters. Corporate headquarters offers the following suggestions for handling obscene phone calls. 2. The district managers discussed the high cost of living with two women sales reps. With two women sales reps, the district manager discussed the high cost of living. 3. Singing for all she was worth, Johnny hoped desperately that Margaret would win the competition. Johnny hoped desperately that Margaret, singing for all she was worth, would win the competition. 19 Slide 20 2007 by Ann Gordon A Modifier Motto Heres a useful rule: Place your modifiers where they will clearly modify the intended words 20 Slide 21 2007 by Ann Gordon Fix these Sentences Exercise 1. The mayor was able to cut the ribbon and then the band played when someone found scissors. 2. According to police records, many dogs are killed by automobiles and trucks roaming unleashed. 3. The dealer sold the Cadillac to the buyer with leather seats. 4. They saw a fence behind the house made of barbed wire. 21 Slide 22 2007 by Ann Gordon Moving on to a Similar Problem 22 Okay, enough info about modifiers whether dangling or misplaced Now, lets look at a related problem that will make your readers Stop -- Unclear Pronoun References Slide 23 2007 by Ann Gordon 3. Unclear References An Unclear pronoun reference involves a pronoun whose reference (antecedent) is unclear A pronoun references someone or something A pronoun is a substitute for a noun The noun is the pronouns antecedent In the sentence: Jane thinks she is an artist. she is the pronoun she refers to Jane Jane is the antecedent for she 23 Slide 24 2007 by Ann Gordon The Pronoun Revisited Personal pronouns: He-him, she-her, we-they-them, it Relative pronouns: Who, which, that A pronoun can refer to a noun that was used in a previous sentence Pronoun references can even span paragraphs 24 Slide 25 2007 by Ann Gordon An Unclear Reference A typical Unclear pronoun reference: 1. Do not park your delivery truck at the taxi stand or it will be towed away. To what does it refer? What will be towed away? The taxi stand? Move words around to make the meaning clear: If you park at the taxi stand, your truck will be towed. 25 Slide 26 2007 by Ann Gordon An Unclear Reference 2. The supervisor informed the customer that they will match the competitors price if he can provide a quote. Such an unclear pronoun reference will nearly always make a reader Stop. One way to make the meaning clear: 26 The supervisor informed the customer that if the customer can provide a quote, the company will match the competitors price. The meaning is more clear now, although this still isnt a great sentence. Slide 27 2007 by Ann Gordon Make Pronoun References Clear Ensure that your pronoun clearly refers to a single, close, specific antecedent Close is the operative word here Sloppy use of pronouns is unfair to the reader Dont cause your reader to guess which noun is the pronouns antecedent Dont make your reader work to figure out what you mean 27 Slide 28 2007 by Ann Gordon Multiple Antecedent Possibilities 1. To keep birds from eating seeds, soak them in blue food coloring. (soak the seeds or the birds?) To keep birds from eating seeds, soak the seeds in blue food coloring. 2. The supervisors told the workers that they would receive a bonus. (who would receive the bonus?) The supervisors complimented the workers on receiving a bonus. OR The supervisors told the workers that all supervisors were expecting a bonus. 28 Slide 29 2007 by Ann Gordon Antecedent too far from the Noun Jody found a dress in the attic that her aunt had worn. (did the aunt wear the attic?) In the attic