Re: Dangling Modifiers

Subject: Re: Dangling Modifiers
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 14:27:08 -0800

greg -dot- hamill -at- teradyne -dot- com wrote:

I would have to say that writing as we speak isn't all that it is talked up
to be. In support of this premise, note the preposition without a
specifically referenced noun.

It's not a case of writing how we speak. No writer - not even the absurdist playwrights - writes exactly how we speak. The most that can be said is that some writers create an illusion of speech.

However, common usage doesn't just refer to speech. It includes how people write novels, plays, and newspapers, too. Or, to be exact (since a good deal of popular writing is poor writing), it refers to the best examples of common usage.

Although a document is a one
direction "conversation," common usage doesn't give us permission to write

No one ever said it did.
And, conversely, claiming to follow the rules doesn't give us permission to write poorly, either. That's the whole point of the famous rebuttal to the preposition rule - usually attributed to Winston Churchill - "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put." The sentence is grammatically correct, but extremely awkward. Only somebody more obsessed with the rules than with writing clearly would seriously use such a construction.

That's really my point: writing well is not necessarily about following the rules. At times, it may be about breaking the rules. If you approach writing with too great a concern about the rules, then you're handicapping yourself. In many cases, you're distracting yourself from the real issues, such as clarity and communication, for a set of arbitrary rules that can distort your language as often as they enhance it.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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RE: Dangling Modifiers: From: greg . hamill

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