Friday Quiz on a Wednesday: Rose Martinez Campaign Commercial

It’s kind of sneaky because of the (admittedly thoughtful) structure of the composition, but this campaign commercial contains a grammatical error. Give it a listen, take a guess, and see if your answer matches mine after the jump.

At the :16 mark, we get this:

As a former aide in the legislature and a healthcare professional, the Star-Advertiser endorsed Rose Martinez, saying her experience will serve her well as a legislator.

I don’t know anything about Ms. Martinez, and I wish her well in the election, but if she is in fact a former educator, her cred takes a hit when she doesn’t have someone proofread the copy of her campaign materials before putting them on statewide television.

What we have here is a misplaced modifier. The phrase that begins the sentence (that stuff before the first comma) exists to modify whatever comes after it (that’s why there’s a comma there). When we do this correctly, we get sentences like

  • Feeling kind of sheepish, I tried to zip my fly without anyone noticing.
  • Open all night, the diner on the corner is a popular spot for college students studying for finals.
  • As a former educator, Rose Martinez should know where to put a modifier, as illustrated in this sentence.

When we do it incorrectly, the results can be comical at best. They can be misinterpreted at worst:

  • Melted and sticky, I discover a chocolate bar in the pocket of my jeans.
  • Stapled to the bulletin board, I saw the announcement for Our Town auditions.
  • As someone who can get the job done, my opponent clearly underestimates me.

In these examples, the modifier describes the noun that immediately follows. We know the chocolate bar is melted and sticky, but the sentence says I am melted and sticky. We know that the announcement was stapled to the bulletin board, but the sentence says I was stapled to the bulletin board. We know that I am someone who can get the job done, but the sentence says my opponent is someone who can get the job done.

Ms. Martinez’s commercial, then, says it’s the Star-Advertiser who is a former aide in the legislature and a former healthcare worker. Honolulu’s only daily has done a lot of things, but I am pretty sure these are not among them.

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