I’d add that half of the skill of writing poetry (or poetic prose) is knowing what you’re doing when you play around with modifiers.
While I’m hiking The Long Trail, I’m reposting old favorites. This one originally published October 22, 2013.
The English language on word order depends.
If that sentence doesn’t convince you, try this:
Take the adverb “only” and place it in different positions in the following sentence.
He said, “I love you.” (Nice thought.)
Only he said, “I love you.” (No one else said it.)
He only said, “I love you.” (He said nothing else.)
He said, “Only I love you.” (No one else does.)
He said, “I love only you.” (He doesn’t love any one else.)
He said, “I love you only.” (His love is exclusive.)
In The Elements of Style, Strunk and White advise that “Modifiers should come, if possible, next to the word they modify.” When modifiers are misplaced, the result is always ambiguity – and often hilarity as well. Consider this Classified Ad:…
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