Driving Topless in a Jeep

Today at the beginning of a business writing class, I asked attendees to introduce themselves by telling us something they enjoy. One woman announced:

"I enjoy driving around topless in my Jeep."

Was she serious? I stopped and stared, looking for hints from her. She gave no clue. After my awkward pause, I asked, "Did I hear you correctly?" She responded "Yes" and then explained:

"I enjoy driving around with the top down in my Jeep."

Ah. Now I understood. It was a case of a misplaced modifier: The Jeep was topless–not the woman.

Here is a topless revision, in the interests of propriety:

"I enjoy driving around in my topless Jeep."

Lesson: If you want to stop a conversation (and traffic), drive around topless. But if you want to communicate (and drive) safely, drive around in a topless Jeep.

Lynn
Syntax Training

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Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact. A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors. A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media. Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I also drive a convertible and had a similar situation. I went to lunch with a male friend and when we got back, after driving around with the wind in our hair, we had trouble focusing on our work. He blurted out in front of a whole table of co-workers, “we go out to lunch and you pull your top up and now we can’t concentrate on anything else!!” Boy, did that raise some eyebrows. I had to quickly correct him with, “the top of my car, not my top!” to my embarassment and the relief of my co-workers.

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