Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dangling modifiers

I have recently taken on a position which requires me to analyze small nuggets of writing for technical and mechanical errors, though not for poor style: terrible writing is perfectly acceptable as long as there aren't misspellings, grammar errors, or a range of other technical issues.

The definition of "grammar errors" we're using is not entirely strict. A few rules are considered to be "not worth fighting for" or to put it another way we are assuming those are battles which have already been lost. Dangling modifiers are the worst offenders. Sometimes a design will have a dangling modifier on almost every sentence. Consider this description of a table:
Crafted from a fine measure of blackened leather, the polished outer cover of this book fashions to hold a modicum of pristine white pages within its fold. Reinforced with two flattened pieces of wood to offer structure to the piece, detailed scrollwork frames the front cover in brilliant argentine ink. Made to portray the title and author clearly on both spine and front surface, the brilliant tint can likewise be found on a symbol placed centre-most to the cover page. Embossed with just a touch of the sterling ink, a perfect rendition of the Seal of Knowledge lies set upon the cover of the book. Inside, sheaves of immaculate parchment lie inset and lined with a soft blue, likewise utilising this same colour on the page numbers marked upon each sheet.
Every time I read a phrase like "fashions to hold a modicum", I want to stab someone. Nothing is ever black when it can be nigrescent. And sometimes it's hard to find a modifier that isn't dangling.

One day, joking with a friend about it, she commented about how someone else was upset that she didn't say she was leaving, or said it too briefly. So I combined the two and wrote this for her:
Faralil coruscates in a viridian ensorcellment of leavetaking, curving a scheme of merry departure in shades of opalescent harmony.
I think a few of the writers who make those designs would think that was beautiful.

1 comment:

Brokenbyclouds said...

This is outstanding. I laughed for ages at "viridian ensorcellment of leavetaking". Bravo sir.