USAGE Modifier problems  

Misplaced Modifiers

A modifier should be placed next to the word it describes.

Example

    

   

Note how the placement of the modifier creates different possible meanings:

    

        

Note how different placement of the word only creates a difference in meaning between these two sentences.

      

Sentence A means that the shopper did not buy any ties.

Sentence B means that the shopper visited only the tie department.

      

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it describes.  Sentences with misplaced modifiers often sound awkward, confusing, or downright illogical.

Some frequently misplaced single words are

        almost    even    exactly    hardly    just    merely    nearly    only    scarcely    simply

Misplaced single word

     Example

    

The logical meaning of this sentence is not that the vendor almost sold all of her pottery, but that she sold almost all of her pottery.

Therefore, almost correctly belongs next to all.

    

Misplaced phrase

     Example #1

    

As written, this sentence means that children were served on paper plates.

On paper plates is misplaced.

 

Correctly written, the sentence means that hamburgers were served, on paper plates.

    

     

    Example #2

      

As written, this sentence means that the car is carrying a briefcase.  Carrying a briefcase is misplaced.

Correctly written, the sentence means that the man is carrying a briefcase.

       

Misplaced clause

    Example #1

    

As written, this sentence means that the store was broken..

    

 Correctly written, the sentence means that the toy was broken.

 

 

 

     Example #2

             

As written, the sentence means that I forgot my keys after I got home.

            

      

Squinting modifiers

A squinting modifier is a modifier misplaced so that it may describe two situations.
     Example
     

The sentence above is unclear.

            Does it mean that I told my son when the game was over?

                                                                OR

            Does it mean that I would play with him when the game was over?

                  

                      

Awkward separations

An awkward separation creates a confusing meaning.

     Example

    

As written, this sentence separates the auxiliary verb from the main verb, creating an awkward gap. 

 

    

 

Dangling Modifier Errors

A dangling modifier is "dangling" because its placement gives it nothing to modify. 

       

In many cases, the dangling modifier appears at the beginning of a sentence, although it can also come at the end.  Sometimes the error occurs because the sentence fails to specify anything to which the modifier can refer.  At other times the dangling modifier is placed next to the wrong noun or noun substitute:  a noun that it does not modify.

    

Dangling modifiers may appear in a variety of forms. 

Dangling participles:

    

In this sentence, the modifier passing the building is positioned next to the broken window.

The resulting meaning is that "the broken window" is "passing the building," clearly not the 

intended meaning.

     

 

    

In this sentence, the modifier once revised and corrected is positioned next to I, suggesting that "I" have been "revised and corrected."

       

Dangling gerund:

    

In this sentence, the modifier after roasting for three hours is positioned next to we,  meaning that "we" have been "roasting for three hours."

 

    

Dangling infinitive:

    

In this sentence, the modifier to walk a high wire is positioned next to a pole.  As a result, the  sentence means that "a pole" can walk "a high wire."

       

        

Dangling elliptical clause:

    

In this sentence, the modifier when just six years old is positioned next to my grandmother, suggesting that my six year old grandmother taught me ballet.

           

                  

How to repair dangling modifiers two options:

1. Create a word for the modifier to describe.  Place it next to the modifier.

            (Sometimes you will need to invent a subject.)

    

With the modifier next to my paper, the sentence clearly means that "my paper" was "corrected  and rewritten."

                          

           

With the modifier next to an acrobat, the sentence clearly means that "an acrobat" can "walk a high wire."

                

2.  Rewrite the modifier (phrase) as an adverbial clause, thus eliminating the need for an immediate word to modify.

         

With its own subject, "was revised and corrected" clearly refers to "my paper."

 

 

         

 

 

 

 

With its own subject, "was just six years old" clearly refers to "I."

    

    

Now the clause clearly shows that "we" have "roasted the turkey."