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Placement of Modifiers

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Placement of Modifiers

Placement of Modifiers

Misplaced Modifiers

Avoid using misplaced modifiers.

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that seems to modify the wrong word or word group in a sentence.
To avoid misplaced modifiers, place a modifier as close as possible to the word or word group it modifies.

MISPLACED WORD 
  • Melting, the trees were covered with icicles. [Are the trees melting?] 
CLEAR 
  • The trees were covered with melting icicles. [Melting modifies icicles, so it has been placed close to the word it modifies.] 
MISPLACED PHRASE 
  • Janell finished the report that Ms. Brooks assigned during her vacation. [Did Ms. Brooks assign the report while on vacation? The phrase during her vacation is too far from the verb it modifies, finished.] 
CLEAR 
  • During her vacation, Janell finished the report that Ms. Brooks assigned. [This placement shows that Janell finished the report while she was on vacation.] 
MISPLACED CLAUSE 
  • James needed a break, who had been studying for an exam. [Had the break been studying for an exam? The clause who had been studying for an exam is too far from the noun it modifies, James.] 
CLEAR 
  • James, who had been studying for an exam, needed a break. [This placement shows that James had been studying, not the break.]

Squinting Modifiers

Avoid misplacing a modifying word, phrase, or clause so that it seems to modify either of two words.

This kind of misplaced modifier is often called a squinting, or two-way, modifier.

SQUINTING 
  • My father promised on Saturday we would go fishing. [Did the father make the promise on Saturday, or do they plan to go fishing on Saturday?] 
CLEAR 
  • On Saturday, my father promised we would go fishing. [This placement clarifies that the father made the promise on Saturday.] 
CLEAR 
  • My father promised we would go fishing on Saturday. [This placement clarifies that they plan to go fishing on Saturday.] 
SQUINTING 
  • Annie reminded me at 6:00 P.M. we have a rehearsal. [Did Annie say that at 6:00 P.M., or will the rehearsal take place at 6:00 P.M.?] 
CLEAR 
  • At 6:00 P.M., Annie reminded me we have a rehearsal. [This placement clarifies that Annie spoke at 6:00 P.M.] 
CLEAR 
  • Annie reminded me we have a rehearsal at 6:00 P.M. [This placement clarifies that the rehearsal is at 6:00 P.M.]

Dangling Modifiers

Avoid using dangling modifiers.

When a modifier does not clearly and sensibly modify any word or word group in a sentence, it is called a dangling modifier.

DANGLING 
  • Having decided to learn to dance, a dance studio was contacted. [Who had decided to learn to dance?] 
CLEAR 
  • Having decided to learn to dance, she contacted a dance studio. [Having decided to learn to dance now clearly modifies she.] 
DANGLING 
  • While shopping for groceries, the rain started. [Was the rain shopping for groceries?] 
CLEAR 
  • The rain started while I was shopping for groceries. [The subordinate clause now makes clear who was shopping.]
Most dangling modifiers come at the beginning of sentences. Two common ways to correct such dangling modifiers are as follows:
  1. Add a subject to the word group that comes at the beginning of the sentence.
  2. Place the word being modified closely after the comma that follows the word group at the beginning of the sentence.
DANGLING 
  • While researching the Industrial Revolution, the librarian helped her find several useful books. [Was the librarian researching the Industrial Revolution?] 
CLEAR 
  • While Clara was researching the Industrial Revolution, the librarian helped her find several useful books. [Adding a subject to the word group at the beginning of the sentence makes it clear that Clara was researching the Industrial Revolution.] 
DANGLING 
  • Resting in the shade, the tennis ball was still held in our dog’s mouth. [Was the tennis ball resting in the shade?] 
CLEAR 
  • Resting in the shade, our dog still held the tennis ball in its mouth. [Placing the word being modified closely after the comma following the word group at the beginning of the sentence and revising the rest of the sentence makes it clear that the dog was resting in the shade.]
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Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎

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