Home Art of writing The case of the misplaced modifier

The case of the misplaced modifier

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I freely admit I’m a word nerd who edits copy wherever I find it. Walking by a lovely home in Old Oakville, I can admire the rhododendrons and yet cringe at the sign over the front door: “The Smith’s.” My proclivity to edit others’ campaign material is documented here.

So now you know what I’m like. What did I think, then, when I saw this sign today?

Grocerystoresign

 

Use shopping cart or hand basket ONLY while shopping. (Emphasis mine.)

To my old-school, grammar-loving eyes, this means that I am permitted to push a shopping cart or carry a hand basket ONLY while spending my money at this store, and not at any other time. So how do I tote six bags of groceries out to the car if I can’t use the cart?

Obviously the store management meant to say: “Please use ONLY a shopping cart or hand basket while you are shopping. No bags while shopping.” The red X over the cloth bag makes this clear. Too bad someone in head office doesn’t know where to place the modifier so that the image and the text agree.

Related post: I miss the copy editors and proofreaders

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Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, workshop leader and part-time university instructor. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects.

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