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The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1582975610
ISBN-10: 1582975612
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The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing + The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A cute little grammar book that uses a solve-the-mystery format to make writing rules fun." -- Mignon Fogarty, host of the award-winning Grammar Girl podcast

About the Author

Bonnie Trenga is a professional copy editor and proofreader, and the author of Off-the-Wall Skits with Phrasal Verbs.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (April 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582975612
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582975610
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've been a professional copyeditor since 1996. I wrote "The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing" because I kept encountering the same writing problems no matter what I edited. The book helps you solve seven common writing problems and gives you some practice. In each chapter you get to correct a poorly written detective story featuring Detective Pinkersolve, an unusual sleuth. Rather than being a dry style manual that you'll feel forced to read, it's a fun guide filled with off-the-wall examples that will help you improve your writing quickly. I'm certain that you'll enjoy "The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier." I also blog at sentencesleuth.blogspot.com, where you'll learn all about grammar, punctuation and style.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kurt on April 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The author does a very good job of informing the reader about all the common mistakes we make in our writing, particularly the dreaded passive voice. It is very helpful for anyone looking for a quick brush-up on improving their writing, but without getting overly technical. It hits the high points perfectly.

The little "mystery" novel helps greatly to show folks how weak writing can creep into their work without them really being aware of it.

It's a quick read, but worth it.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By H. Grove (errantdreams) TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Grammar is something that so many people struggle with, and it can be tough to find a book on it that you're really willing to sit down and read. I've found some good ones over the years, such as "Keys to Great Writing" by Stephen Wilbers. I've also found one or two that were painful to read. Still, while I enjoyed "Keys", many people would prefer something... shorter. Simpler. Perhaps because they're deathly afraid of grammar, or perhaps because they already know much of it and just want to brush up on the details now and then.

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, by Bonnie Trenga, is perfect for these people. Each chapter on a particular "grammar crime" begins with a case for Detective Pinkersolve. These case write-ups deliciously skewer the English language in some way. Each chapter goes on to explain why this type of grammar error confuses and confounds readers and how to fix it, with the help of many examples. Finally you're encouraged to fix up the opening case to make it more readable, then compare it to a sample rewrite in the back of the book.

This book will be particularly fun for those who enjoy reading mysteries, as the examples all draw on aspects of crime and police-work. The examples are hilariously comical and over-the-top, making them entertaining to read rather than headache-inducing or boring. The humor here is sly, ironic and delightful.

It's clear that Ms. Trenga has carefully thought through the content of this book; nothing here is off-handed or rushed. Rather than simply stating that passive voice is bad, as many people do, she details the situations in which it would be appropriate.

Instead of simply showing us "incorrect" and "correct" examples, she often details incorrect, correct, and "even better.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By B. M. Gluck on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is, quite simply, a wonderful book for writers of all levels; whether high school, college, professional, or otherwise. If your writing is sick, because of weak sentence structure and improper grammar usage, reading this book will help heal it. The lessons found here will mend your words, and they will flow strong and true right from the heart of your writing, coursing through every sentence, bringing new life to your meaning.

I'm a professional writer who is always in search of ways to improve my craft, and have shelves of writing books; many of which are on the subject of grammar. They, for the most part, are dry, lifeless, and make for very dull reading. But 'The Curious Case Of The Misplaced Modifier' is different. It presents explanations of seven common grammatical mistakes in an easy to grasp, personal, and thoroughly enjoyable way. It's almost as if the author was sitting on the couch next to me, sipping tea, while explaining why and how to build better sentences through the proper use of grammar.

Although a physically small book, measuring just 8"x5" with some 150 pages, it packs a huge wallop.

Yes, Gracie, good things do come in small packages. Buy it, you will not be disappointed.

Barry Gluck
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By FictionAddiction.NET on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A decade as a professional copyeditor and proofreader prompted Bonnie Trenga to write a reference book. She noticed that beginning and experienced clients alike made the same mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes lay with grammar or punctuation, but usually sentence structure was the problem.

At the time, none of the available grammar books addressed the problems she continually encountered. She felt that writers needed a guide covering the seven common writing mistakes she saw most often.

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier is the result of her effort.

Writing well takes more than correct grammar. A sentence with ackward phrasing can cause readers to lose interest. So, instead of focusing on grammar, Misplaced Modifier concentrates on writing clear sentences that inform and entertain readers.

Each chapter begins with a short mystery story full of the writing mistake addressed. The chapters are short, direct and supported by examples. Each one is concluded by a recap and a summary. Trenga tells us what she's going to tell us, tells us what she told us, and then tells us again.

The problems discussed in the book include passive voice, nominalization, vague -ing words, weak verbs, misplaced modifiers, long sentences and wordy prose. Although the example stories are mysteries, the information is useful for any form of writing.

After the seven chapters on writing felonies comes a list of ten writing misdemeanors. The list covers punctuation, clichés, spelling and vocabulary. An answer key for the mistake-ridden mysteries and a glossary follow.

The book concludes with a weak writing rap sheet. The rap sheet repeats the information presented in the book in a graph form. It's format, which lists problems, examples and fixes, makes it easy to find the answers to specific questions.
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