August 30, 2010


One of the books I'm working through with my daughter is called, "The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier."  We read the introduction today and learned the following:
"You wonder how your favorite writer succeeds in making you want to read more.  Likewise, you're unsure exactly why a dull writer makes you want to shelve the book...after just a paragraph.  Writers you like probably use clear subjects, active verbs and concise phrasing.  They limit the length of their sentences and take advantage of colorful vocabulary.  Chances are, writers you dislike bog you down with vague, wordy sentences that run on too long.  Or maybe they're pompous.  Even if their grammar and punctuation are correct, their writing can still be confusing or dry."

And later, she wrote:
"Poor writing has many roots.  To start with, we tend to write the way we speak.  When we talk, our hand gestures and intonation help listeners understand our meaning, so it doesn't matter if we ramble on a bit.  When we write, though, readers see just our words, so we need to state clearly what we're trying to get across.  Readers don't want to work hard to figure it out.
We don't intend to baffle our readers, but sometimes we do because we don't know how to spot and correct lapses in clarity.  Sometimes what's in our minds doesn't translate to the page.  Other times we fall into bad habits, such as using vague phrasing or passive sentence structure.  Whatever the reason, awkward phrasing and outright errors can damage a writer's credibility and make readers lose interest."

Makes sense, right?

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