Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SAY WHAT YOU MEAN



 Posted by Linda
How many times have you reread a sentence and found yourself laughing. Or, at your critique group, someone read your manuscript and everyone giggled. Embarrassing, to say the least. You probably put a clause, phrase, or participle where it modified the wrong noun or pronoun. Example: “We saw the flowers walking in the garden.” What the writer meant was “While walking in the garden, we saw the flowers.”

"When still a puppy, I taught Fido to shake hands.” Were you a puppy? Add a noun or pronoun to correct the meaning. "When he was still a puppy, I taught Fido to shake hands." Or take "I" out – “When still a puppy, Fido learned to shake hands."

Can you reword these sentences so they say what you mean?

“Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.”

“As a mother of five, with another on the way, my ironing board is always up.”

“Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.”

Orphaned pronouns also cause misunderstanding in a sentence. "The dog bit my tire and then it sprang a leak." Although the pronoun "it" is closer to tire, it still seems to refer to the dog because of the word "then." Instead, say "My tire sprang a leak when the dog bit it."

If a modifier rests too far from the word it modifies, the meaning can be confusing, amusing and/or distracting. "Later I saw the dog with a girl on a long leash.” If we place the phrase closer to dog, we correct the meaning. "Later, I saw a girl with the dog on a long leash."

Remember, when you condense words to write tight, that you need to avoid the mistakes shown above.

2 comments:

Dean K Miller said...

Aw come on...if we fix all of these early on, crit. group readings will lose some of their flavor!!!

Linda Osmundson said...

I'd answer but I'm in Cabo San Lucas until Sunday. Sorry, Dean.

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