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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interesting Ambiguous Sentence

From today's paper (in a column that answers random questions):

Q: "There was an article in Friday's paper about jaguars in Arizona. The 10th paragraph begins 'The newly spotted cats...' My impression was that jaguars were permanently spotted. Do they develop new spots as the winter hair grows in?"

The answer explained that the writer meant that the cats had been recently seen, not that their spots developed.

Did any of you misread the sentence?


Bob King said...

The phrase "newly-spotted" would indicate that they had developed spots, while "newly spotted" (without the hyphen) indicates that they had not been seen before.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Usually you don't use a hyphen after an "-ly" adverb, but Bob is right that a hyphen would indicate spots that were newly developed. Thanks for your input, Bob!