Misplaced Modifiers Help (page 2)
When you write, you transfer what you are thinking—what you want to say—onto paper for someone else to read. You use modifiers to describe words or make their meanings more specific. You know what you mean to say, but your message can become unclear if you have misplaced modifiers: phrases or clauses that slip into the wrong place in your sentences.
There is a simple way to prevent your modifiers from becoming misplaced: Keep them as close as possible to the words they modify.
A dangling modifier does just that: It dangles, and doesn't seem to modify any word in particular.
After burning dinner, Russell opened the door in his pajamas to let the smoke out.
After burning dinner in his pajamas, Russell opened the door to let the smoke out.
Both sentences make it sound as though Russell cooked dinner inside his pajamas, burned the dinner, and opened the door to air out his pajamas.
This error is easily corrected by placing the prepositional phrase in his pajamas closer to the word it is modifying (Russell), and placing the adverb phrase after burning dinner later in the sentence.
In his pajamas, Russell opened the door after burning dinner to let the smoke out.
Russell, in his pajamas, opened the door to let the smoke out after he burned dinner.
A squinting modifier is one that's ambiguous because of its placement—it seems to describe something on either side of it.
Ryan's teacher, Ms. Bennett, told him when he completed his test to pass out some papers for her.
Did Ms. Bennett tell Ryan she wanted him to complete his test before passing out some papers for her? Or had Ryan already finished his test when Ms. Bennett told him to help her pass out papers?
When he completed his test, Ryan's teacher, Ms. Bennett, asked him to pass out some papers.
Ryan's teacher, Ms. Bennett, told him he could pass out some papers once he completed his test.
Infinitives are to verbs, and modifiers do not belong between the two words.
- Incorrect: My mom told me to never lie.
- Corrected: My mom told me never to lie.
When a modifying clause is improperly placed within a sentence, it disrupts the flow of the words.
I will not tolerate, just because you're the star, your disrespectful outbursts.
I will not tolerate your disrespectful outbursts just because you're the star.
Managing Your Modifiers
Here are a few rules to help you place modifiers correctly in a sentence.
Rule 1. Place simple adjectives before the nouns they modify.
Wearing a green raincoat, the exhausted student walked home in the rain.
Rule 2. Place adjective phrases and adjective clauses after the nouns being modified.
The surfer with long blond hair rode the ten-foot wave with ease.
Rule 3. Place only, barely, just, and almost before the noun or verb being modified. Their placement determines the message in your sentence.
Only Peter ran to the store. [No one else but Peter went.]
Peter only ran to the store. [He didn't walk.]
Peter ran only to the store. [He didn't go anywhere else.]
Peter ran to the only store. [There was no other store around but that one.]
Peter ran to the store only. [He ran to the store, and did nothing else.]
Tip: The most frequently misplaced modifier is the word only. It shows limit or contrast and, as previously shown, placing only next to the word it modifies will really clarify what you are trying to say.
Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings. They are often called "multiple-meaning words."
I clipped the ad in the newspaper
Addd the items up to get the total.
No one is allowed in my office without permission.
I heard him read my name aloud today.
I saw an ant carry a crumb up the table leg.
Aunt Myrtle is eccentric.
Dad ate a rack of ribs at dinner.
There are eight people in my family.
One cent is called a penny.
I recognized the scent of her perfume immediately.
Greg sent flowers to Dahila on Mother's Day.
My dog chews on almost anything.
May I choose the next game to play?
Grandpa Jim was a colonel in the Navy.
Don't bite on the popcorn kernel.
She is such a dear friend.
Deer roam the woods beside my house.
The morning dew felt cold on my feet.
I do not like licorice.
The first payment is due in four days.
The ewe watched her lamb closely.
A small evergreen called a yew is prevalent on most continents.
I love you.
They flew to Orlando for the first time.
It is not easy to catch the flu.
The chimney flue was dirty.
Flour is used to make many desserts.
The flower lasted only four days in the vase.
Wounds heal at different rates.
Her heel hurt after she took her new shoe off.
He'll be the best choice, I think.
Can you hear well?
Here ae the apples from the basket.
The hole they dug was three feet deep.
I can't believe I ate the whole sandwich.
Within the next hour, you will see a real difference.
Our friends are moving in September.
The gorcery aisle was messy and chaotic.
They bought a small isle in the Gulf of Mexico.
I'll show you how to do this.
He knew better than to do that.
Our new neighbors built a deck.
I tried to untie the knot in her shoestring.
They could not see because of the fog.
I know how to jog backward.
No, he doesn't.
The meat at her butcher shop is fresh.
Let's meet next week to finish this.
I need a vacation, do you?
Nathan got kneed in the side by his opponent.
You must knead the bread dough before letting it rise.
Eileen has one more hour of work left.
Ashley wished she won the prize.
Hillary's pair of shoes was two sizes too small.
Baked pear is easy to make.
We stood at the peark if the mountain in awe.
He took a quick peek in her shopping bag.
What I overheard piqued my curiousity.
The principal idea is to help others.
It's the principle of the matter, and nothing else.
Will it rain again tomorrow?
King Henry VIII's reign over England lasted 38 years.
The horse's rein was worn and needed replacing.
You're right; turn right at the light up ahead.
The tribe's rite of passage involved marriage.
Teachers often ask students to write essays.
Jan will sail in the Carribean for one week.
I bought the living room furniture on sale.
Scene four in the play was the turning point in the plot.
I have never seen an octopus before.
The guard stood stationary for several hours.
The pink stationery had her mongram on it.
There is an outside chance that we can go.
It took their bus 18 hours to get home.
They're supposed to confirm the appointment.
The child threw a tantrum in the middle of the store.
Through thick and thin, the friends remained loyal.
I will try to change this light bulb with one hand.
He plays video games too often.
My two sisters look alike.
Pile the wood by the back of the shed.
Would you care to give me a hand?
Which sneaker you choose is solely up to you.
Dorothy outsmarted the wicked witch in her own castle.
The weather could be severe, so be cautious.
I can't decide whether to stay or leave.
Who's going to Albany with Craig tomorrow?
Is this whose coat you thought it would be?
Homographs are words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently and have completely different meanings. Following are some familiar examples.
Tip: Remember to use grammar check as well as spell-check when you write. Spell-check will say this sentence is okay, "The hair hopped down the rode," because those are real words …. but not the right ones: "The hare hopped down the road."
Exercises for this concept can be found at Misplaced Modifiers Practice
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