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In English, modifiers go next to the thing they modify. Dangling and misplaced modifiers are challenging because they can be difficult to spot. Often the meaning is clear enough that readers pass right over them. That doesn't mean, of course, that we shouldn't fix them.  Continue reading...

Here's the most dangerous thing I've ever done: When I was about 25, I went on a spur-of-the-moment hiking trip with an athletic friend who was back in Vancouver, where I live, for a visit. I didn't know where we were going, so I just threw on my hiking boots and grabbed a pack and the food I was asked to bring.  Continue reading...

The first line of a novel has to accomplish many things at once. It has to grab the reader in some way with its immediacy, but also effectively introduce the rest of the book. A great opening line isn't a tweet, and it can withstand all the spoilers in the world, because literature is something thought through, and the pleasures are deeper than the next immediate payoff.  Continue reading...

In Miss MacDonald's fourth-grade classroom in P.S. 206, in Brooklyn, New York, I had my tracing paper in front of me, unzipped my pencil case, picked up my sharply pointed #2 pencil, and I placed the transparent paper on top of the picture of the paperback bird guide drawing of the owl.  Continue reading...

When beginning a story, a writer must decide, not only who will be in the story, what they'll do, and where and when they'll do it, but the point of view from which the story's people, places, and actions will be seen and described. Many options are available, and each one will make a big difference to how readers experience the story.  Continue reading...

"Victuals" is one of those words that many people know by sound and sight but have not put sound and sight together. It's sort of like knowing someone by name and knowing someone by face, but not realizing the two are the same person. Until you accidentally find out, and it's usually embarrassing.  Continue reading...

We have occasionally invoked Tom Lehrer when discussing how the simple letter "e" can change the meaning of many words, citing his song "Silent 'E.'" That "e" can also magically change a word into another form, such as a noun into a verb. This being illogical English, there are few "rules" as to what it does, though.  Continue reading...

2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 472 Articles