Style Matters #29: Putting adjectival phrases in sensible places

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So, what exactly is an “adjectival phrase” and why do writers need to take care when using one?

An adjectival phrase is a series of words that describe, qualify or modify a noun (person, place or thing) or pronoun.

Examples:

It was cold, wet and windy weather.
Joe’s balance was severely affected after the accident.
Hers was the fastest-moving entry.

A simple way to identify an adjectival phrase in a sentence is to pose the question: “What kind of?”

However, make sure adjectival phrases are placed next to the noun or pronoun they are describing, qualifying or modifying. This will ensure there is no confusion of meaning.

(incorrect)
Short, fair and plain-looking, she disliked the look of the man following her.
(Here the reader is left to wonder to whom the phrase describes: The woman who is the subject of the sentence or the man who is following her.)

(correct)
She disliked the look of the short, fair and plain-looking man following her.
OR (different meaning but sentence intent is clear)
She was short, fair and plain-looking yet she disliked the look of the man following her.

———-

If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters

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