Incorrect modifiers provide the most opportunity for mirth, though even misuse of a comma can produce a guffaw. (See “Using commas” page for examples.)
For instance, back when I taught College Preparatory English (i.e., remedial writing) at Palm Beach State College, a student produced this gem (part of a narrative essay about fixing up her home): “Have you ever tried to paint your house with a 4-year-old?”
To which I replied: “No. I always use a paintbrush or roller.”
Many years ago, I read a newspaper article in which some poor man had been rescued after being immersed for some time in cold water: “He was flown to a hospital suffering from hypothermia.” Zounds! A hospital that suffers from hypothermia? Nein! Here is the correct version: “Suffering from hypothermia, he was flown to a hospital.”
Here are more Egregious Examples (with my comments):
“Joe will always help a customer with a smile on his face.” (If you’re in a bad mood, don’t show up in Joe’s shop, or he might not assist you.)
“Please do not make extra work for our employees by following these simple instructions.” (Really?! Why are you providing me with instructions that will make more work for your employees? How about this: “Please follow these simple instructions to avoid making extra work for our employees”?) OK, my sentence won’t win a Pulitzer prize, but neither will it win an EGG Award.
How about, “Just the other day, I saw a man rob a woman with a gun!” (I know that, here in South Florida, people do very strange things. Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that a woman with a gun could be robbed.)
What about this? “Police kill man with machete,” read a Miami Herald headline. (People were outraged: How dare the police chop a man to death!? But guess what? They shot him; he held the machete. Ergo, the headline was correct.)
Here’s another: “The Edsel Foundation will donate $100 for each car sold to the Cancer Research Foundation.” (So, if J.D. Vivian, instead of the Cancer Research Foundation, buys a car, the Edsel Foundation won’t donate any money to fight breast cancer? This is how the sentence should read: “The Edsel Foundation will donate $100 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for each car sold.”
The lesson is: Pay attention to details, or pay the price!
Correct the errors in the following sentences:
1. Micanopy Chamber of Commerce members know that Lisa, our executive director, greets every guest with a winning smile.
2. Some diseases are especially dangerous which are virulently contagious and can affect humans.
3. As a child, the world was a large, scary place.
4. As an adult, the business world confused me.
5. With multiple bank, credit-card and investment accounts, it’s easy to lose track of your statements.
6. Living amidst nature’s beauty, it is easy to forget the city’s hustle and bustle. (brochure for development in N.C.)
7. When cooking a large meal, tremendous amounts of moisture enter the air. (article on wallpapering a kitchen)