Monday, April 6, 2009

GrammarScribe Grammar Tip of the Week: Misplaced Modifiers

These crafty little buggers can insinuate their way into copy without us even realizing it. Misplaced (and dangling) modifiers are some of the biggest culprits in unclear writing. The worst thing about them is that we tend to not even notice them because we know what we meant to say.

Misplaced modifiers can confuse readers. Modifying words and phrases are a clingy bunch—they want to attach themselves to the closest word or phrase in the sentence. If they’re in the wrong spot, they can appear to modify a different word or phrase than we intended, changing the meaning of the sentence drastically.

Shining brightly, I had to shield my eyes from the sun.

Because of the placement of the modifying phrase “shining brightly,” at first glance the reader thinks that the narrator of the sentence is shining brightly. If the sentence is part of a first-person narrative from the point of view of Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan, who actually does shine brightly on a regular basis, then maybe that’s okay. But in the far more likely scenario that the writer meant that the sun is shining brightly this sentence needs to be reworded so as not to confuse the reader:

I had to shield my eyes from the sun, which was shining brightly.
The sun was shining so brightly I had to shield my eyes.

Sometimes misplaced modifiers aren’t so obvious. See if you can catch the misplaced modifier in the following sentence:

The third annual Incredible Customer Experience Awards recognize 10 businesses that excel in hospitality and 10 people who provide outstanding customer service along the Grand Strand.

As written, this sentence indicates that the 10 people who are to be honored are customer-service employees in locations along the Grand Stand only. (In other words, people who work in other locations are not included.) But that's not the intention of the sentence. What the writer meant to say is that the ceremony is taking place along the Grand Stand. This should be rewritten to clear up any confusion:

The third annual Incredible Customer Experience Awards along the Grand Stand recognize 10 businesses that excel in hospitality and 10 people who provide outstanding customer service.

Have a grammar rule that you'd like to see covered as a Tip of the Week? Leave a suggestion in the comments!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who Else Needs Another 12 Hours in Their Day?

Wow. Wowee wow wow.

How is it possible that I've let two whole months go by without updating?

The time has flown by, and my unforgivable lack of blog maintenance is due to something that makes me very happy: I've been busy. Busy with a capital "B."

I currently have two regular clients. Ideally, I would have more than that, but these two lovely companies are piling so much work on my plate that I don't think I could handle anything more right now. Especially considering that I'm still putting in 40 hours (plus 5+ hours a week commuting) at my "regular" job.

I feel like I'm striking a solid balance at the moment. Because I still have the full-time job, my freelance income is gravy. It's allowing me to pay off a ton of debt and build my savings account for the day I take the scary scary leap into full-time freelancing. It's also funding a new computer and furniture for my home office.

My goals for the year are coming along. I had a slow month in February, but I came back with a vengeance in March. In mid-March, a client that I've been working with since the beginning of the year moved me to a new project. In addition, a client I've had since last year kept me super-busy with several well-paying assignments. As a result, I exceeded the income from my previous best freelancing month by almost $200.

I haven't been able to break into copywriting yet, mostly because I've been so busy with my other projects. I did pick up a copy of Bob Bly's The Copywriter's Handbook, and it's already providing me with lots of great ideas. Getting my first business-writing sample is a huge goal for me going into the second quarter of 2009.

Full-time freelancing, my ultimate goal, is still on the distant horizon. I'm getting there. Slowly but surely. As much as I complain to my husband and friends that I don't have time for anything but work lately, combining the full-time job with the part-time writing business is still the best of both worlds. As much as I'm anxious to start freelancing on a full-time basis, I want to have all my debt paid off and a reasonable amount of cash set aside before I cut the cord from full-time employment. So my current 60-hour work weeks are a means to an end.

I just hope that end is in sight soon. ::grin::

I'll end this post with a question for any other freelancers who read this blog: When you were first starting out, did you moonlight while holding down a full-time job? How long did you lead the double life before going full-time with your writing business?