Writing E-Tips
June 2005   
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"I do not choose the right word. I get rid of the wrong one."

-- A. E. Houseman

Avoiding Ambiguous Wording, Part I

Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

     Ambiguous wording can occur when a writer uses misplaced or dangling modifiers. Here are some hints for avoiding these problems.


Confusion occurs when there are too many words between the modifier and the word it is intended to modify. Be sure to place your modifier as close as possible to the word it is modifying.

Confusing: Our product offers benefits for customers that are among the best.
(It sounds like the customers are among the best.)

Better: Our product offers benefits that are among the best for customers.


A dangling modifier is another type of misplaced modifier. It often contains an -ing word, and it "dangles" because the word it is meant to modify is missing from the sentence. Make sure your sentence includes the word that such a phrase modifies.

Confusing: Having distributed the favorable sales report, the phone was ringing off the hook. (It sounds like the phone distributed the report. What the phrase is actually describing is not even in the sentence.)

Better: Having distributed the favorable sales report, Lela noticed the phone was ringing off the hook.
Or . . .
Once Lela had distributed the favorable sales report, the phone was ringing off the hook.

The preceding tips are from
Write for Business:
A Compact Guide to Writing
and Communicating

now available for purchase at www.upwritepress.com


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Coming in the July Issue:
Avoiding Ambiguous Wording, Part II"

Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating
is available for purchase at 1-800-261-0637 ext. 10,
or on the Web at www.upwritepress.com.

"Writing E-Tips" is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105.
Copyright © 2005, UpWrite Press. All rights reserved.