Ask Me a Question

If you have a writing, grammar, style or punctuation question, send an e-mail message to curiouscase at sign hotmail dot com.

Add Your Own Criminal Sentence!

If you find a particularly terrible sentence somewhere, post it for all to see (go here and put it in the Comments section).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Criminal Sentence 209: Needed: A Good Home for my "Who" Clause

From today's newspaper (in the movie-summary section):

"Paul Rudd stars as a man about to be married who needs to find a best man."

The writing world is filled with orphan clauses, mostly "who" and "that" clauses that need to match up with the noun they modify. In my book I talk about a trick to help you avoid this kind of misplaced modifier:

1. Find a "who" or "that" clause.
2. Look to the immediate left. If the word directly before "who" or "that" is the noun that the clause modifies, bingo.
3. Otherwise, you need to rewrite.

Take the steps as we look at the "who" clause in today's criminal sentence.

1. Find the "who" clause: who needs to find a best man."
2. Look to the left. "Married" does not go with "who."
3. Rewrite.

Many writers, especially published ones, don't seem to know about this problem, which causes confusing sentences, or at minimum imprecise ones. Do me a favor and forward this post to at least one writer who would benefit from this knowledge.

1 comment:

RedPanda said...

Thanks. That's a great tip to remeady an easily overlooked grammar problem.

On an unrelated note: I love the chapter on weak verbs in the Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier. I've read it dozens of times, most often before an especially daunting session of draft revisions.