Monday, November 23, 2009

The Importance of Clarity

Misplaced modifiers are a reader's biggest headache and a writer's most dangerous grammatical crime. Even the simplest of sentences can be complicated by poor syntactical ordering of modifiers. Kristen Harris illustrates this point well in one of her posts. Because clear communication is the most basic goal of any piece of writing, it is imperative the writer is mindful of his or her wording of certain phrases. Consider how this sentence, using all homonyms, is incredibly confusing, but perfectly correct:

Words used:

"Buffalo:" Buffalo, New York. (Proper Noun).
"buffalo:" The animal. (Noun).
"buffalo:" To bully. (Verb).

Upon some editing/translating:

"[The] Buffalo (PN) buffalo (N) [whom] Buffalo (PN) buffalo (N) buffalo (V) [also] buffalo (V) Buffalo (PN) buffalo (N)."

Now, although correct in structure, the nightmares of "buffalo" still haunt the reader, even after a closer analysis. This is exactly the reason why effective word placement is necessary. Without careful phrasing of important sentences (and all other sentences), the words will become highly unattractive to most readers. This is not only a poor way to gain popularity among an audience, but also creates an unfortunate gap in communication. Without being clear and concise, a writer has not fulfilled his or her objectives.

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