Monday, October 24, 2016

At least the ghosts aren't foreigners

Prepositional phrase placement is important. Sometimes you can get away with separating constituent elements, but sometimes you can't. Like here:
Photo of the Day from Nat Geo: Belived by locals to be haunted, Tevennec Lighthouse in Brittany, France, is bathed in an eerie green glow

The desired reading is "believed by locals" but unfortunately the embedded clause has a verb that also takes "by" as a complement - "haunted by". And since English tends to run left-to-right and government by the nearest is a thing, the reading this is going to get is not "believed to be haunted" and "believed by whom" but "believed to be haunted" and "haunted by whom".

Such a simple rewrite to remove the structural ambiguity! "Believed by locals to be haunted".

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