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The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, by Bonnie Trenga

April 13, 2007


This petite, delightful, gem by Bonnie Trenga is full of mystery, but not the kind of mystery you might be expecting. This is a story that tells “The Tantalizing Tale of Passive Voice,” “The Delicious Drama of the Weak Verb,” and “The Peculiar Puzzle of the Vague – ing Word.” This treasure trove is a non-grammar focused guide that covers the main seven writing mistakes Trenga encountered in her ten years of professional editing.

Trenga states in her introduction, “Every chapter beings with a mystery, filled with the writing mistake we investigate in that chapter.” The first step she outlines shows the reader how to detect and correct the mistake. Then there are lots of examples of the right and wrong way to use this grammatical faux pas. An explanation of why you should avoid making this mistake – boring your reader, being too vague, being too pompous, and confusing your reader – is made very clear. Examples of when it is okay to make the “mistake” are also included.

At the end of each chapter Trenga recaps the rules, gives a succinct set of good and bad examples of the lesson, adds an extra exercise, and then a short summary. The format is attractive, with different color and size of type to set sections in each chapter apart. The examples she uses are clever and fun to read.

This was the very first book on grammar I have ever enjoyed. It would be a great textbook for an English Composition 101 or 102 course. It is a friendly, hands-on approach that doesn’t talk down to the reader.

Tangra states, “How to write well might seem like a mystery to you.” If you read this book and do the exercises, you will be sure to solve the crime…. and hopefully stop committing it!

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