Location, location, location.

Last week's piece on dangling participles made me think again about how real estate, or location, is as vital in a sentence as on the island of Manhattan. Participles can dangle, and other modifiers can be misplaced as well. So can apostrophes, spaces, and more, all of which leads to some grammar howlers.


Thanks to a long-distance colleague at HarperCollins, a woman with a great fund of experience, we have these goodies to share this week from the Island of the Misplaced Modifier:


Susanna woke early to the raucous shouts of tradesmen and rolling carts rising from the streets below.

After walking several hours, the sun was high and hot and Susanna was thirsty.

Designed and constructed by the famed scientist and architect, Christopher Wren, James had always enjoyed a peculiar connection to the brick and copper framed building.

Gasping, trying desperately to suck air into his empty lungs, the knight’s fingers could only clutch at the dog ineffectually as Dragon straddled him, pinning him to the ground.

Weak and aching with hunger, the flickering light from the Berserker guards’ torches seemed to waver and go blurry.

They abandoned the footpath and for the pleasure of feeling the earth, leaves and tree roots beneath their paws, and the smell of green things growing in their nostrils.


(A neti pot may have helped that last one. Or maybe just watered the grass.)


And here are some wonderful misplaced modifiers, although not dangling participles: 


He caught her and kissed her on the end of the shuffleboard.
It was Sunday. And like all other Italian families in the neighborhood, it was a day of worship.
Like most white people of his time, nudity made him uncomfortable.



In general, misplacement gives rise to many errors, including my all-time favorite.


Back in the day, I worked in a copy pit, copyediting books like so many sausages pinched off the assembly line. At the next desk, a  young editor was combing the dictionaries and atlases, frantically looking for Theisland. 


"I have a sentence, 'Theisland does not produce enough food to feed its population.' But I can't confirm the spelling of Theisland!!! Is it by Denmark?" she cried.


About a half hour later, a horrible expression crossed her face. 


There is no Theisland. it was The island. A letter space had been . . .  misplaced.


We posit Theisland as a small, quiet, comfortable island where exhausted editors can retire in peace.  Barcaloungers and hammocks prevail. There are no deadlines. None at all.


We welcome your best stories of the egregiously misplaced!

Message Edited by Ellen_Scordato on 06-18-2009 04:10 PM
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