Um… did they really mean that?

In a report US authorities charge man in ricin probe, SBS states that “A 41-year-old martial arts instructor has been charged with sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other public officials following his arrest.” Whoa… replay that. He sent the letters after he was arrested?

I think that’s a case of a misplaced modifier. According to, “The syntax of the English language is fairly flexible, but one rigid rule is that a word or phrase that modifies a word or a phrase should be positioned so that its interrelationship with the target component is clear.” In this case the writer intended (at least, that’s my assumption :)) to say that the man was charged after his arrest, not that he sent the letters after his arrest. The sentence would have read correctly if ‘following his arrest’ was placed at the beginning: “Following his arrest, a 41-year-old…”

Sadly, this type of error is fairly common in the media these days.