A Slippery Sentence

What do you think of this sentence?

We were planning a shopping trip when Aunt Mary arrived.

It’s perfectly grammatical – but there’s a problem: It could have two meanings.

  • We planned our shopping trip around Aunt Mary’s arrival.
  • Aunt Mary’s arrival interrupted our shopping plans.

Language (as the postmoderns keep reminding us) is a slippery business. It’s always a good idea to ask someone else to read anything important you’ve written. An English degree isn’t required! We all use language all the time, and that means we all have expertise.

In the writing group I facilitate, I always recommend taking feedback seriously. If even one person sees an alternate meaning – or has trouble processing what you’ve written – consider revising what you’ve written. 



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