Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Danglers again

Came across a great dangler:

Twenty-five years after his death, essayist Paul Baron analyzes the seminal research of astronomer Rich Lewis.

That's an impressive feat, after-death analysis. Most of us plan on just lying in our graves and playing the harp, but this Paul Baron is spending his afterlife analyzing....

Oh! It's the astronomer who has been dead 25 years! Gee, in that case, you'd think the modifier (Twenty-five years after his death) would go right next to the identification of the dead person! Like:

Essayist Paul Baron analyzes the seminal research of astronomer Rich Lewis twenty-five years after his death.
Twenty-five years after his death, the research of astronomer Rich Lewis is still considered seminal by essayist Paul Baron.
Or what?

And I do NOT want to hear that "the reader will figure it out." It's not the reader's job to fix the writer's mistakes and make sense where the writer has written nonsense. If the reader pauses for a moment to figure out what we really meant to say, not only have we lost the "meaning momentum," but we've also lost credibility-- the reader can't trust what we're writing.

Write, but then read. Read as a reader.



Jessica Silva said...

Vague! I agree with you: fix it. Sometimes I'm unsure if when the 'he' I'm referencing is explicit enough. When in doubt: spell it out.

Awesome post!

Jordan said...

Oh, I love these.

Local commercial: "As mayor of Park City, people often ask me . . . " (Do they ask you how come "people" are serving as the mayor? Isn't that the council plan?)

And then there's one of my kids' shows or movies, where a (male) character says something along the lines of: "As a young woman, I can tell you . . . "

I have a sentence in my work where it says something about a guy who made an appt with the FBI, having embezzled cash, and (another clause here, if I remember correctly). A CP insisted that "having embezzled" could only apply to the FBI in that construction. (Moving "Having embezzled" to the beginning of the sentence wouldn't work, either, because there's something else there. Can't remember the whole sentence perfectly.)

Of course, CPs read like hypercritical English-major readers. Because we ask them to. (Though it's a little funny when they try to get us to follow "rules" that they don't seem to understand, or even know how to apply.)

Leona said...

LOL I love it when she shares these :)

Like Jordan, I find it funny when a beta reader/CP tries to "fix" things that aren't broken :) Mine has issues regarding the punctuation of questions in quotes. Freaks her out all the time LOL :D

But this is too hilarious. I read it as the dead man doing it as well. Thought maybe it was one of "those" stories.

Jordan said...

I found my second example! (Seriously thought I'd never track it down among all the kids' shows. I wasn't trying, though—just happened to turn on that episode.)

Said by a teenage boy, "As a damsel in distress, I have to help you."

Edittorrent said...

Jordan, it's always good to have crit partners who "feel" when something is wrong even if they don't know exactly what it is. They have good instincts and are usually right-- something is wrong. Cherish her! "Having embezzled" probably should be changed, just on general principles. :)

Leona, yes, we collect such danglers! We are really obnoxious.


Gayle Carline said...

If I were in the mood to make a lot of work for myself and risk being not only rejected, but called an idiot, I'd write a story filled TO THE BRIM with danglers, so that by the end, the reader couldn't tell who did what but was laughing so hard they didn't care. It'd have to be a short story.

Jordan said...

Well, what do you know? I went to look at the original sentence and I did move that clause.