for a strong, fast pick-me-up
Can you see what’s wrong with this news writing seen on a major commercial network in Australia.
The story was about a long-awaited bridge being built.
“Talked about for years, Transport Minister Scott Emerson says this project will no longer be a bridge too far”
What has been talked about for years? The transport minister OR the bridge?
This sort of mistake is called a “dangler” (Dangling modifier) and the BBC trains its writers to avoid danglers.
Regarded as lazy and misleading, I advise you to avoid danglers in your news writing.
Who or what is regarded as lazy and misleading?
Here are two easy ways to fix a dangler.
1. Add the who or what to the dangler.
The project has been talked about for years. Transport Minister, Scott Emerson, says it will no longer be a bridge too far.
After I ate my lunch, the waiter engaged me in converation.
Who ate the lunch? I did or the waiter did?
2. Check what comes after the comma that usually comes after the introductory words. The modifier refers to the first noun or pronoun that follows. Make sure the “thing after the modifying words” is what those words are meant to modify.
Talked about for years, Transport Minister Scott Emerson says this project will no longer be a bridge too far.
Talked about for years, the project will no longer be a bridge too far – according to Transport Minister Scott Emmerson.
If found guilty, The Arsenal players could be fined by the Football Association.
Sure, that’s passive voice – yet it’s clear that the players are the ones who could be found guilty.
These days, some media organisations argue that the audience will understand what they mean – even if there is a dangler.
Still, the BBC goes to the effort of discouraging danglers. It’s not that difficult to avoid danglers. It’s not a bridge too far!
What do you think? Worth the effort? Not worth worrying about?
Please add your views in the comments section.
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