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In Memoriam

Karen Virag

The Editors’ Weekly mourns the loss of a loved and valued contributor, Karen Virag, who passed away on Jan. 11 following a brief illness.

From the EAC’s national office:

A longtime member of EAC’s Prairie Provinces branch, Karen was the association’s director of publications. She co-chaired EAC’s successful 2008 national conference in Edmonton and the production of Stylistic Editing: Meeting Professional Editorial Standards (2011). She was supervising editor at the Alberta Teachers’ Association, and a freelance editor and writer. Her writing appeared in the Edmonton Journal and The Tomato, a culinary magazine. She volunteered for a community initiative called Arts on the Ave and, along with Virginia Durksen, was also well known as one of the Grammar Gals, appearing regularly on Alberta at Noon, a call-in program on CBC Radio One.

“Karen was a bright light in the association,” said president Jacqueline Dinsmore. “She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends on the national executive council.”

Karen wrote the popular Gettable Grammar column for the Editors’ Weekly:

She also wrote the article “English Can Be So Two-Faced.”

See also: Karen Virag’s obituary

Karen Virag

Excerpt from Karen Virag’s “Things That Dangle”

Hours before giving birth, a woman’s boyfriend leaves her for her best friend and quits the talent agency they run together to start his own competing business.

Now that is one amazing—and appalling!—boyfriend. First he gives birth, then he betrays his girlfriend. Typical man.

In actuality what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is not an entry for the Guinness Book of World Records but, instead, an example (taken from an actual text) of a dangling modifier—the bane of many a writer’s existence and the source of many a reader’s amusement.

Simply put, a dangling modifier is a part of a sentence, usually an introductory element, that does not actually modify a noun or clause in the sentence. Instead, it dangles there, distractingly, causing confusion, unsure of what to do. To continue a theme, it is much like some men in the delivery room.

Consider this sentence:

At age seventeen, his family moved to Edmonton.

Grammatically, the phrase “at age seventeen” modifies the subject of the sentence, “his family.” In reality, the person to whom the phrase refers is not mentioned in the sentence. The sentence should be rewritten to something like

When he was seventeen, his family moved to Edmonton.

Danglers are similar to misplaced modifiers, which make a sentence nonsensical (and often quite funny):

Discuss the risks and benefits of using this medication while breastfeeding with your doctor.

And so we come full circle, back to babies, men and things that dangle.



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