My friend Branch Walton sent me this snippet from a recent PBS news report. Read it carefully (it’s short). Can you find a detail that’s confusing?
Here it is: the shots happened “while chasing a Chinese fishing boat.” Who was doing the chasing? Was it South Korea – or North Korea? You have to read further in the story to find out that the North Korean patrol vessel was doing the chasing.
A grammarian would say that the “chasing” phrase is a misplaced modifier. I say that writing long sentences is a bad idea. That’s how even good writers get themselves tied in knots.
Here’s my version:
South Korea’s military says it fired warning shots at a North Korean vessel. South Korea was watching the vessel chase a Chinese fishing boat. Shots were fired when the vessel crossed the disputed western sea boundary between South and North Korea.
Here’s a simple rule that I’ve found very useful: keep your sentences short!
Photo courtesy of Shelby Steward (Flickr)