The Nuance of Words

Wordle: Modifiers

Our words have the power to communicate or confuse; to lift up or tear down; to take readers on a great adventure or let them down; to teach us how to take good care of ourselves or give erroneous advice.

For instance, this statement could mean two entirely different things:
Just Rachel was selected to work on the new television series” does not mean the same as “Rachel was just selected to work on the new television series” – can you distinguish the difference? Does the author mean that Rachel was chosen from among many to work on the series or could the author mean that Rachel was chosen JUST NOW?

“Her husband ate a cold bowl of cereal for breakfast this morning” is NOT the same as “Her husband ate a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast this morning.” In the first phrase, the adjective COLD refers to the BOWL, but in the second phrase, it correctly refers to the cereal. Yes, the bowl COULD be cold, but this is an example of misplaced modifiers – words that, when out-of-place, leave readers wondering what just happened!

“The two couples quietly talked in the corner drinking martinis. ” Is the CORNER drinking the martinis? This should read, “The two couples drinking martinis talked quietly in the corner.”

Now I’ve been accused of nitpicking. But it really does make a difference if you want your reader to enjoy a smooth, fast-paced experience with your book. And this is not just limited to fiction. Being on target with your writing means making sure that every sentence is crystal clear!

You’ll catch these little things when you read your work out loud. And when you hear it, highlight it and go back and fix it!

Keep reading and writing! Nancy Q.


About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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4 Responses to The Nuance of Words

  1. bookauthorstour says:

    Loved this. LOL if people…me included…would remember how to diagram a sentence, then it would be sooo much better.

    • NL Quatrano says:

      Yes indeed, but you know, when the newspapers can’t take the time to construct sentences well, then I suppose society just figures it doesn’t matter. I’m not talking about spelling errors – those can happen to the best of us. I’m for anything that makes communication clearer for all. Thanks for the post!

  2. jeaniemorales says:

    I agree, reading your written material out loud is a fantastic way to catch mistakes. Just, don’t do it in a library. Especially while sitting alone. 🙂

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