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Do YOU Make this Mistake in English? 7 February 2007

Lately, I have been inundated with more offers than usual – both online and offline. You know the kind. They all begin with an introduction similar to this one:

“As a valued subscriber to XYZ, I would love to offer you an exclusive discount on 123.”

Did you spot the error? Are you making the same mistake over and over again?

It’s called a dangling modifier, with the modifier being the phrase, “As a valued subscriber to XYZ…” This refers to you the subscriber. All very well and clear.

However, things get muddled when this is incorrectly followed by the next phrase beginning, “I would love…” This refers to the author of the piece, which is quite clearly not the subject it is intended to describe (or ‘modify’).

The correct version should be: “As a valued subscriber to XYZ, you are entitled to an exclusive discount on 123.”

Here the subject, “you,” appears directly after the modifier describing it.

A moot point, but even the simplest of mistakes can lead to confusion, or worse lost sales. Paying attention to modifiers could go a long way to saving the day (and a red face!).

COPYRIGHT © 2007, T Dooley

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2 Responses to “Do YOU Make this Mistake in English?”

  1. isabella Says:

    as a non-native english speaker, i find this perhaps a bit easier to understand – in theory, at least, because grammar has been pounded into me more than into most native english speakers. but watch out when i write long copy (you know, the long copy you referred to above, the one that hasn’t been sufficiently edited) – i can get all jumbled up!

  2. Hi Isabella

    What a great perspective!

    I think people can have the tendency to waffle with longer copy. That’s the danger.

    There is a fantastic movement called the Plain English Campaign, which aims to stamp out muddlesome English and waffle.

    Here is a great ‘before and after’ example:

    Before
    Your enquiry about the use of the entrance area at the library for the purpose of displaying posters and leaflets about Welfare and Supplementary Benefit rights, gives rise to the question of the provenance and authoritativeness of the material to be displayed. Posters and leaflets issued by the Central Office of Information, the Department of Health and Social Security and other authoritative bodies are usually displayed in libraries, but items of a disputatious or polemic kind, whilst not necessarily excluded, are considered individually.

    After
    Thank you for your letter asking for permission to put up posters in the library. Before we can give you an answer we will need to see a copy of the posters to make sure they won’t offend anyone.


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