What is a misplaced modifier


What is a misplaced modifier





©t 2000, 1999, 1998, 1998 Margaret L.
Benner

 

Misplaced
Modifiers

A
misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated
from the word it modifies / describes. 

Because
of the separation, sentences with this error often sound awkward, ridiculous, or
confusing.  Furthermore, they can be
downright illogical. 

  
Example

        

The
example above suggests that a gold man owns a watch.


Misplaced
modifiers can usually be corrected by
moving
the modifier to a more sensible place in the sentence, generally next to the
word it modifies. 

  
Example

       

Now
it is the watch that is gold.

 

There
are several kinds of misplaced modifiers:

1.



Misplaced adjectives are incorrectly separated from the nouns they modify
and almost always distort the intended meaning.

 
  
Example 1

       

  Correct the error by
placing the adjective next to the noun it modifies.

    
Corrected

       

 

    
Example 2

       

  
Corrected

      

Sentences
like these are common in everyday speech and ordinarily cause their listeners no
trouble.  However, they are quite
imprecise and, therefore,
should have NO place in your writing.

2. Placement
of adverbs
can also change meaning in sentences.

    
For example, the sentences below illustrate how the placement of just can
change the sentence’s meaning.

   
Just
means only John was picked, no one else:

       

 

   

Just means that John was picked now:

       

 

 


Just

means that John hosted only the program, nothing else:

       

 

 

Each
of these sentences says something logical but quite different, and its
correctness depends upon what the writer has in mind.


Often,
misplacing
an
adverb
not only alters the intended meaning, but also creates a sentence whose meaning
is highly unlikely or completely ridiculous.

    
This sentence, for example, suggests that we brought a lunch slowly:

READ:  Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

        

    
To repair the meaning, move the adverb slowly so that it is near ate.

       

           

Watch
out for adverbs such as only, just, nearly, merely, and almost
They are often misplaced and cause an unintended meaning.

   
This sentence, for example, means that I only contributed the money:

       
                          


     Repaired, however, the sentence means that I
contributed only $10.00.

 

    

    


Like
adjectives, adverbs are commonly misplaced in everyday speech, and may not cause
listeners difficulty.  However, such sentences are quite imprecise and,
therefore,  should have NO place in your writing.


 

Now click on the link below to
complete Exercise 1.





 Link to Exercise 1



3.
Misplaced phrases 
may cause a sentence to sound awkward and
may create a meaning that does not make sense.

 


 

The
problem sentences below contain misplaced phrases that  modify the wrong nouns. 


To
fix the errors and clarify the meaning, put the phrases next to the noun they are
supposed to modify. 

 

   
Example 1 (a buyer with leather seats?)

       

 


Corrected

       

 

   Example 2 (a corner
smoking pipes?)

       
 


 

   
Corrected

       

    

   
Example 3 (a house made of barbed wire?)

       

    
Corrected


       

Click
on the link below to complete Exercise 2.


Link
to Exercise 2




4.

  Misplaced clauses
may cause a sentence to sound awkward and
may create a meaning that does not make sense.


The
problem sentences below contain misplaced clauses that  modify the wrong nouns. 

To
fix the errors and clarify the meaning, put the clauses next to the noun they are
supposed to modify. 

 

  
Example 1 ( a buttered woman?)

       

   
Corrected

       

READ:  5 Essential Steps to Re-Learn a Language You've Forgotten

   
Example 2 (a hamper that Ralph wore?)

       

   
Corrected

       

 

Be
careful!
  In correcting a misplaced
modifier, don’t create a sentence with two possible meanings.

    Example

 

Problem:  Did
the teacher say this on Monday or
will she return the essays on Monday?)


 

 


Correct

ion #1  (meaning the essays will be returned on Monday)

   

 


Correction #2  (meaning that the teacher spoke on Monday)


   

 


Click on the link below to complete Exercise 3.


Link
to Exercise 3

DANGLING MODIFIERS                                 





 

A

dangling modifier
is a phrase or clause that is not clearly and logically
related to the word or words it modifies
  (i.e. is placed next to).

   
Two notes about dangling modifiers:

  • Unlike
    a misplaced modifier, a dangling modifier cannot be corrected by simply
    moving it to a different place in a sentence.

  • In
    most cases, the dangling modifier appears at the beginning of the
    sentence, although it can also come at the end.

Sometimes
the dangling modifier error occurs because the sentence fails to specify anything to which the
modifier can refer.  

    Example 
1

       

This
sentence does not specify who is
looking
toward the
west
In fact, there is nothing at all in the sentence to which the modifying phrase
looking toward the west
can logically refer. 
Since the modifier, looking toward the west,  is
sitting next to the funnel shaped cloud, the sentence suggests
that the cloud is doing the looking.


 


Example
2

       

This
sentence means that my mother enrolled in medical when she was nine years old!

At other times
the dangling modifier is placed next to the wrong noun or noun
substitute.


 

   
Example 1

       
 


Because of the placement of walking
to the movies
, this sentence suggests that the cloudburst
is walking to the movies even though a possible walker – Jim
– is mentioned later.

    Example 2

       

Since
having been fixed the night before is placed next to Priscilla,
the sentence means that Priscilla was fixed the night before.


 

 


As
the above examples show, dangling modifiers result in inaccurate and sometimes ludicrous
statements.

              


 

How
to correct dangling modifiers

 

Dangling modifiers may be
corrected in two general ways.

 

Correction
Method #1

  1. Leave
    the modifier as it is.

  2. Change
    the
    main part of the sentence so that it begins
    with the term actually modified.  

  3. This change will put the modifier next
    to
    the term it modifies.

 Thus, this dangling modifier

       

 


may be corrected to

       


 


Now the sentence means that I was looking toward the west.


 

Using the same method, this
dangling modifier

       
                

 


may be corrected to


 

    


 


Now the sentence means that Jim was drenched by the cloudburst.


 

Click
on the link below to complete Exercise 4.


Link to Exercise 4


Correction
Method #2


  1. Change
    the dangling modifier phrase to a subordinate clause, creating a subject and
    verb.

  2. Leave
    the rest of the sentence as it is.

 

 


Thus, the dangling modifier

     
      

may
be corrected to

        
 

 


Now the sentence means that (not my mother!) was nine years old
when my mother enrolled in medical school.


 

Using the same method, the
dangling modifier

       

may be corrected to 

 

        


 


Now the sentence means that the car (not Priscilla!) was fixed.


Click on the
link below to complete the final exercise.





Link to exercise 5
 




Link
to Post Test




View more information: https://www.towson.edu/ows/moduleDangling.htm

See more articles in category: Grammar

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