Monday, October 31, 2011

The Case of a Dangling Modifier; Egregious Syntax Error by NPR Host Steve Inskeep

While interviewing Dallas businessman Ray Washburne earlier this month, NPR Morning Edition cohost Steve Inskeep put the following question to his guest:

“Let me ask another thing. As a Texan who has been very active in the Republican Party and has raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars, I assume you're acquainted with your governor, Rick Perry?”

Many of my readers will instantly recognize a grammatical blunder in the long second sentence. The opening clause “As a Texan who has…….thousands of dollars” is meant to modify the “you” or the object in that sentence (i.e. guest Washburne) and not the subject “I” because it is not Inskeep who is the Texan and active in the Republican Party. But, because an opening phrase or clause always modifies the subject that immediately follows, the above sentence ends up either confusing the reader or listener or creating unintentional humor. [To check it out for yourself, click here:]

I realize the above is basic grammar, but if the highly experienced and talented Inskeep can make such an egregious error, I suppose so can anyone else if they lower their guard.

BTW, one way to correct the syntax in the above complex sentence would be to rewrite it as follows: “As a Texas who has been very active in…… and thousands of dollars, you’re acquainted with your governor, Rick Perry, I assume?”

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

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