Purple Prose + Writing

Say What?

Yawning, my foot kicks the covers off the bed.

We’ve all done it (even J.K. Rowling, I bet). We’ve all written those sentences that sound great in our head, but they don’t necessarily say what we think they do.

The best way to avoid dangling modifies is to read over your sentence and ask yourself: what noun is the clause modifying (describing), and does the sentence makes sense when I modify it? The noun is the one closest to the clause. By asking yourself these questions you might realize that you placed the clause (or modifying word) next to the wrong noun. The result is a confusing or hilarious sentence.

In the above example, yawning is referring to my foot. Well, I don’t know about your feet, but mine don’t possess the ability to yawn. The correct subject of the sentence is missing. It should read:

Yawning, I kick the covers off the bed.

And what about the sign in the photo? When I first read it, I thought it was telling me that mentally delayed children or children who aren’t very fast are playing in the street. (Okay, I’m not really that dumb, but the sign did make me laugh).

Do you take the time to make sure your sentences say what you think they mean?

What other grammatical errors have made you laugh?

(Note: In Canada they don't have the 'slow' part. The yellow sign indicates a warning. It's warns you that children play here. Here, we assume the driver is smart enough to know that you need to slow down when you see the sign. Okay, not everyone is smart enough to know that. )

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Say What? + Writing