I was doing a quickie edit/proofread on a short story for a friend the other day and I noticed several places where the placement of a word changed the meaning of a sentence. This isn’t unusual, of course, but it set my little brain cells quivering. What made him put that word there, and was it deliberate or careless?

What I was reading was a first draft. You expect to find things that could be called to the author’s attention in hopes of clarifying just what he intended to say. But you find the same problems with completed, published works as well. Sometimes it makes for unintended humor.

Consider the difference between these two sentences:

Yeah, she was ugly but she was a great dancer.

Yeah, she was a great dancer but she was ugly.

Which would you rather have applied to yourself. Oops, maybe that wasn’t the best example, but you can see what I mean. Let’s add one more to the equation:

Yeah, she was ugly and she was a great dancer.

That’s a bit bland and leaves the reader wondering if there is supposed to be any correlation at all between the two phrases. It comes down to the writer’s vision of “her” and how it fits in the context of the writing. If he’s answering a question like “Do you remember Sarah Kingsley from high school?” the third choice above might actually work. Bland is not necessarily useless.

This post goes nowhere but it was fun to write. Wait a minute…maybe what I meant to say was: This post was fun to write but it goes nowhere.

Maybe both statements are true. Still, stick with me. With luck it will all get better.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.