Writing Wrongs: Consciousness

Munch "The Scream"

Welcome to my new Sunday feature, Writing Wrongs. In honor of my new editing business, let’s have some wacky grammar fun.

Even major publications are rife with countless grammatical, spelling, usage and editing errors. I’ve decided the best way to deal with the horror is to share it! So let’s raise our mimosas in a toast to clear writing, and start with our first Wrong:

“After 15 Years in a Vegetative State, Scientists Partly Restore Consciousness in Patient.”

What’s wrong with this headline?

a’pbojab’a9prwuesf’cl kxmcvlkh!!!……..Sorry, that’s what happens when I drum my fingers on the keyboard.

Even if you don’t know the grammatical rules, you sense the problem.

This headline, from a major publication, tells you that the scientists in question spent 15 years in a vegetative state before finally restoring consciousness to the patient. The subject of the sentence is the scientists who performed this miracle, and in this construction they’re the ones in a vegetative state. (Talk about a miracle!)

I don’t think that’s what Discover Magazine means to say. It’s too late to fix it, at least in the print version, but all they have to do is move a few things around and change a word or two. Caution: merely switching the two halves of the sentence won’t help. “Scientists Partly Restore Consciousness in Patient After 15 Years in a Vegetative State” is just plain confusing. I mean, who’s vegetative now?

There’s more than one way to do this, but here’s the easy one:

“Scientists Partly Restore Consciousness in Patient Who Spent 15 Years in a Vegetative State.” Let’s go with that one, for the sake of clarity.


Have you come across any bad grammar lately? Use the contact form to send me links to your favorites or to your pet grammar peeves, and let’s see what we can do to restore consciousness to the web.


Read about Petrea’s editing services here.

#Discover Magazine#grammar#Writing Wrongs


  1. Lowell - January 7, 2018 @ 10:44

    Yeah, I’ve seen lots of bad grammar of late, but most of it was mine! 🙂 Seriously, just run though AOL’s main page on any day. Aargh. The writers can’t spell much less put together a decent sentence. And I meen that surely for certayn.

    • Petrea - January 7, 2018 @ 11:23

      Hahahaha! I think we’re going to have fun with this. I’m not a stickler, as long as the meaning is clear. But no one should be paid for bad grammar.

  2. William Kendall - January 7, 2018 @ 11:30

    One often sees it, I find, in Facebook news items. The story itself might be properly done, but the Facebook blurb for it can mangle the intent of the item.

    • Petrea - January 7, 2018 @ 12:02

      Yep. I think I found today’s glitch on Facebook.

  3. Gina - January 7, 2018 @ 13:54

    The featured error is called a dangling mofifier.

  4. Barbara and Watson - January 7, 2018 @ 16:41

    Our local paper has some doozies! I’ll send them along when I see them! 🙂

    • Petrea - January 7, 2018 @ 17:37

      Thank you! Let’s have some fun with them.

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