Prepositions are tricky words in any language (that has them), and English is certainly a member of this club. Getting the prepositions right all the time is hard, even for a (ahem careless) native speaker. I quote my goof:

“Thought you’d like to know I quoted something on your site today.”

(Give me poetic license for leaving off the first person singular subject, okay?)

Everything is grammatical, but what is on that site? My first reading of the sentence after not looking at it for several days told me I claimed to have visited that person’s site and written something there. But I hadn’t. I did the writing on my site (The post on parallelism, below, to be exact.) I had quoted something from his site on my site. The sentence would have been better if I had included both prepositional phrases:

“I thought you’d like to know that I quoted something from your site on my site today.” Still not super good, but better.

The most natural reading of that original sentence is to have the “on your site” modify the verb “quoted,” and herein lies another lesson. Normally a prepositional phrase appears right after the word it modifies. Why do we want to jump over “something” to make the preposition modify the verb?  Because “something” is so bland. It could be Mark Twain, Socrates, an ephemeris, the newspaper, anything. In fact, the word is so general, you wonder what’s the point of the sentence saying that I went to his site and quoted something. Rah rah, big deal.

So let’s get rid of that pointless word and replace it with something oops a word more vivid: Mistake. Or solecism (mistake in grammar). Or goof. Now we have:

“I thought you’d like to know that I quoted a mistake on your site today.”

I didn’t say anything about me or where I wrote the quote, but now the reaction is, “What? A mistake on my site? And he quoted it? Who is this guy? An antivaxer? (inside joke) A reporter? My old English teacher?

Now it’s clear, and it has some punch. I can tell who I am and where I wrote in another sentence, which I did.

One last thing—I didn’t say what the mistake was. That was on purpose. A rule regarding certain types of writing is to avoid repeating yourself, and I had already described the mistake here on my site, so I pointed him to my article. I saved some repetition, and he could decide whether to go find out what the mistake was—I wasn’t forcing him to read my opinion.

By the way—he visited here and fixed the error. Mission accomplished, even though I made a mistake.

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