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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

August 21, 2009

Misplaced Subject/Passive Voice

I know I said the next entry was affect/effect, but a friend sent this to me, and I just couldn’t resist.

Here it is. Can you find what’s misplaced?

Another victim was pistol-whipped and taken to a hospital by paramedics, said Sgt. John Cuenca of LAPD’s Foothill Division.

Info from my friend: Published 8-20-09 in the Daily News, authorship credit: By City News Service (which ought to hire competent copy editors)

What the writer said, but I’m sure didn’t intend, is that the paramedics pistol-whipped the victim and took him to a hospital.

If instead of burying the subject in a prepositional phrase (by the paramedics), the writer actually put the subject in the right place, the sentence would read:

The paramedics took another victim who was pistol-whipped to the hospital, said Sgt. etc.

The major problem in the sentence that led to the mishap is passive voice (was taken). See the page on Syntax and Style for more info on passive and active voice.

August 6, 2009

I’m sorry

I know, I know. I’m extremely busy with two, count them, two clients who have full-length books. I’ll get back with my regular posting ASAP. FYI, the next one is on affect/effect, a real poser for so many people.