Why do you write blog posts, letters, and emails? To communicate your thoughts, of course!
In order to communicate well in writing, the goal is to have your thoughts flow effortlessly from your mind, through your fingers, out to your copy, and from there to your reader’s brains, where they will be clearly understood.
That’s why I nag a lot about using the correct words and spelling. When there’s an incorrect word, it causes the reader to stop and look twice, so you’ve lost that flow.
All of a sudden, they’re looking at the words instead of absorbing the thoughts behind those words.
Misplaced modifiers can have the same “stop sign” effect on your readers.
So far today I’ve come across two examples that made me stop and re-read the sentence in order to understand the meaning. One was in a book, the other in a news article.
- I decided to stop by the cafe on the way to the office for some eggs and coffee.
- …revealed she had an abortion Thursday in a New York Times op-ed …
Wait – he was going to the office for eggs and coffee, but he stopped at a café on the way? That makes no sense, but it’s what the sentence said.
And really, did this woman have an abortion on Thursday? Did she have it in an op-ed? No, she had it years ago, but revealed it on Thursday in an op-ed. But that’s not what the reporter wrote.
Some slight re-writes would have made these sentences make sense.
Be careful. Write what you mean.
When you tuck those modifiers in just any old place, it can change the entire meaning of your sentence. Worse, it can confuse your readers and cause them to focus on your words and your sentence structure instead of the message you wanted to convey.
Take the time to proofread your work - looking not just for typos and misspellings, but for sentences that could confuse your reader.