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All about words: modifiers, looking forward

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modifiersBy Mary Morel | May 2017

Dangling, misplaced and squinting modifiers

I sometimes wonder who invents grammar terms. This month I looked at dangling, misplaced and squinting modifiers.

What’s wrong with these sentences that Liz Boulter gives in her Guardian article, Excuse me, but I think your modifier is dangling?

‘Hopping briskly through the vegetable garden, John saw a toad.

Gently warmed in the oven and smothered in cream cheese, my friends loved the bagels.

To be really filling, you could add some boiled potatoes to the salad.’

They all have modifier problems.

Read the rest of my blog.

To find out more about grammar, sign up for my online course Grammar Essentials (A$39).

Readers’ questions

Looking forward

Question: Increasingly I hear people say ‘Looking forward’, which I think is incorrect. Surely it should be ‘Looking forward to…’?

For example:
‘It’s going to be nice weather!’
‘Yes, I’m looking forward.’

‘I can’t wait to invite you to my home and cook dinner.’
‘Oh yes, looking forward!’

Response: Yes, it should be ‘looking forward to…’. I haven’t noticed this, but am sure I will hear it now.


Question:  Should I write ’31 days written notice’ or ’31 days’ written notice’?

My preference is without, but is there an actual rule for Australian use?

Answer: I would leave it off.

The Australian Style manual (p87) says:

‘It was previously conventional to use an apostrophe in expressions of time involving a plural reference, such as:

six weeks’ time
three months’ wages

The apostrophe is now often left out… the sense of these phrases tends to be more descriptive than possessive.’

Style manual goes on to say that you should use an apostrophe with a singular time reference, such as ‘a day’s journey’.

Find out more about apostrophes with my online apostrophe course for just $19.95.

Punctuation in PowerPoint lists

Question: Should we use punctuation in the following list in a PowerPoint presentation?

At the end of the webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Summarise the role of Adult Protective Services.
  • List the types of abuse recognized in Oregon, and
  • Decide whether a situation is appropriate for APS or an OPI Case Manager.

Answer: I would have no end punctuation in a list in PowerPoint. Punctuation in PowerPoint is more minimal than in other document types.

Read my blog post about how to punctuate lists in Word documents.

Interesting articles about writing

Email sign-offs
What email sign-off do you think gets the most response? Find out. 

Writing Facebook posts
A university is considering offering a course on writing Facebook posts. Read more.

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’
Are you still reading books on Kindle or are you back to reading paperbacks? Read more.

Grammar is classist
Do you think the argument for proper grammar is about class? Read more.

Quote of the month

‘Don’t get it right, just get it written.’
James Thurber

I have just re-read The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber and laughed out loud. I had forgotten how funny it is.