Grammar, Chocolate, & Ambiguity

Grammar, Chocolate, & Ambiguity

After we put our daughters to sleep, it's not unusual for my husband and me to find our way to the cupboard and pull out a bar of dark chocolate.  

chocolate bar

Last night, as we unwrapped our Ghirardelli premium chocolate bar, I noticed several recipes on the back of the wrapper. I might have explored the recipes further, but I was distracted by a confusing sentence.

chocolate bar wrapper

For more tempting recipes, visit our website.

When you love language, you find a strange joy in little sentences like this. Here's why. 

That sentence is ambiguous. It can be interpreted in two ways.

Meaning #1

For recipes that are more tempting than the recipes on this wrapper, visit our website.

If you were to read this version out loud, you would emphasize the word tempting.

For more tempting recipes, visit our website.

Of course, this isn't the intended meaning, but this meaning did pass quickly through my mind. 

Here's how the sentence diagram of this interpretation looks. (Don't worry if you don't know how to diagram sentences. I'll point out the important part to you below.)

Sentence Diagram

In this interpretation, more is an adverb modifying the adjective tempting.

Even if you don't know how to diagram, you can see that more is modifying tempting because it sits on a line that is connected to tempting

Let's look at the other meaning.

Meaning #2

For additional tempting recipes, visit our website. (Clearly, this is the intended meaning.)

If you were to read this version out loud, you would emphasize the word more

For more tempting recipes, visit our website.

This interpretation means that all of the recipes are tempting, and if you'd like to see even more of them, you should visit their website. 

Sentence Diagram

In this interpretation, more is an adjective modifying the noun recipes.

You can see that it's modifying recipes because it sits on a line that is connected to the word recipes


Studying grammar makes you more sensitive to how language is used.

Isn't analyzing ambiguity fun?

I know what Ghirardelli meant, and the wrapper's ambiguity is minor and inconsequential, but ambiguity in writing is fairly common and it can cause problems.

Ambiguities can also be quite amusing, and they often make funny headlines.

Here are five ambiguous newspaper headlines taken from Richard Lederer's book Anguished English. They'll give you a good laugh.

1. Hershey Bars Protest 

2. 2 Sisters Reunited After 18 Years in Checkout Counter 

3. American Ships Head to Libya 

4. Squads Help Dog Bite Victim

5. Complaints About NBA Referees Growing Ugly 

When you understand grammar and diagramming, you can better avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings.

If you'd like to teach or learn grammar the easy way—with sentence diagrams—check out our Get Smart Grammar Program.

It starts from the very beginning and teaches you grammar and sentence diagramming in easy, bite-size lessons. 

The Get Smart Grammar Program
Elizabeth O'Brien

Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar. 

I live in England and teach my fourteen-year-old daughter at home. Your website is wonderful, and we are so grateful you have created it. It is an inspiration.

- Nigel, Homeschool Dad

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