Know the Sentence Modifiers

§       Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that give additional detail about the subject discussed in a sentence.

§      Since these words enhance the reception of a sentence, they tend to be describing words such as adjectives and adverbs.

§      Like most writing techniques, modifiers can be brilliant when used correctly and effectively. On the other hand, if a modifier is used incorrectly the meaning of the sentence can become blurred or distorted.


Errors with Modifiers

1.       Misplaced Modifier

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that does not clearly relate to what it is intended to modify. In other words, a misplaced modifier makes the meaning of a sentence ambiguous or wrong.

or

A misplaced modifier is a modifier that is not located next to, or as close as possible to, whatever it is modifying. The subject that it is modifying is present in the sentence (otherwise the error would be considered a dangling modifier) however, the modifier is not attached properly to the thing being modified.

Examples of Misplaced Modifiers

Here are some examples of misplaced modifiers (shaded):

§  Andrew told us after the holiday that he intends to stop drinking.

(In this example, it is not clear whether Andrew made this statement after the holiday or whether he intends to stop drinking after the holiday.)

§  Running quickly improves your health.

(In this example, it is not clear if quickly modifies running or improves.)

§  We will not sell paraffin to anyone in glass bottles.

(Often, like in this example, common sense tells us what the writer meant. Clearly, this is about paraffin in glass bottles not people in glass bottles. However, placing your modifier too far away from the thing being modified will do little to showcase your writing skills.)

§  The fish was greatly enjoyed by the fisherman, which was tasty

(The modifier here is “which was tasty” which is meant to provide additional information about the fish. This is not a logical statement. Since the modifier should be describing the fish, it is misplaced.

The sentence needs to be rewritten to say “The fish, which was tasty, was greatly enjoyed by the fisherman.”)

  • She served sandwiches to the children on paper plates.
  • He nearly drove the car for six hours a day.
  • She saw a puppy and a kitten on the way to the store.
  • Only Pastor Johnson gave me $5 to clean all his sidewalks.
  • She almost failed every exam she took.
  • He bought a horse for his sister they call Prince.

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. 

MODIFIERS
§  Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that give additional detail about the subject discussed in a sentence.§  Since these words enhance the reception of a sentence, they tend to be describing words such as adjectives and adverbs.§  Like most writing techniques, modifiers can be brilliant when used correctly and effectively. On the other hand, if a modifier is used incorrectly the meaning of the sentence can become blurred or distorted.
Errors with Modifiers1.       Misplaced ModifierA misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that does not clearly relate to what it is intended to modify. In other words, a misplaced modifier makes the meaning of a sentence ambiguous or wrong.orA misplaced modifier is a modifier that is not located next to, or as close as possible to, whatever it is modifying. The subject that it is modifying is present in the sentence (otherwise the error would be considered a dangling modifier) however, the modifier is not attached properly to the thing being modified.Examples of Misplaced ModifiersHere are some examples of misplaced modifiers (shaded):§  Andrew told us after the holiday that he intends to stop drinking.(In this example, it is not clear whether Andrew made this statement after the holiday or whether he intends to stop drinking after the holiday.)§  Running quickly improves your health.(In this example, it is not clear if quickly modifies running or improves.)§  We will not sell paraffin to anyone in glass bottles.(Often, like in this example, common sense tells us what the writer meant. Clearly, this is about paraffin in glass bottles not people in glass bottles. However, placing your modifier too far away from the thing being modified will do little to showcase your writing skills.)§  The fish was greatly enjoyed by the fisherman, which was tasty(The modifier here is “which was tasty” which is meant to provide additional information about the fish. This is not a logical statement. Since the modifier should be describing the fish, it is misplaced.The sentence needs to be rewritten to say “The fish, which was tasty, was greatly enjoyed by the fisherman.”)
She served sandwiches to the children on paper plates.He nearly drove the car for six hours a day.She saw a puppy and a kitten on the way to the store.Only Pastor Johnson gave me $5 to clean all his sidewalks.She almost failed every exam she took.He bought a horse for his sister they call Prince.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#1   The example above suggests that a gold man owns a watch.Example#2                 Corrected      



2.      Dangling Modifiers·         A modifier is considered dangling when it has been left hanging by an identifiable subject or noun. The end result is a modifier that is woven into the fabric of a sentence by an apprentice. This occurs when a subject being modified is not mentioned within the sentence.·         Misplaced modifiers are distinct from dangling modifiers since the subject being modified is actually contained in the sentence. If the subject being modified was not present in the sentence at all, the modifier would not merely be misplaced. It would be considered a dangling modifier.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.Examples of Dangling ModifiersExample 1:Having read your letter, my cat will stay indoors until the ducklings fly off.In this example, the missing word is we. A correct version would be:Having read your letter, we will keep our cat indoors until the ducklings fly off.(In this example, the modifier Having read your letter is modifying we as it should.)Logically, the wrong example suggests the cat read the letter.

Example 2:Meticulous and punctual, David’s work ethic is admirable.In this example, the missing word is David (as a standalone subject). A correct version would be:Meticulous and punctual, David has an admirable work ethic.(In this example, the modifier Meticulous and punctual is modifying David as it should, not David’s work ethic.)Logically, the wrong example suggests David’s work ethic is meticulous and punctual.
Example 3:               may be corrected to     Example 4:            may be corrected to             Now the sentence means that I (not my mother!) was nine years old when my mother enrolled in medical school.3.      What Is a Squinting Modifier?A squinting modifier is a modifier (usually an adverb) which could feasibly modify the words before it or the words after it. A squinting modifier is a type of misplaced modifier.Examples of Squinting ModifiersHere are some examples of squinting modifiers (shaded):Cycling up hills quickly strengthens your quadriceps.(In this example, the adverb quickly is a squinting modifier. It is unclear whether quickly pertains to Cycling up hills or strengthens.)Taking a moment to think clearly improves your chances.(In this example, the adverb clearly is a squinting modifier. It is unclear whether it pertains to think or improves.)Fixing a Squinting ModifierLike most misplaced modifiers, a squinting modifier can be fixed by changing its position in the sentence or by rewording. For example:Cycling up hills strengthens your quadriceps quickly.Taking a moment to think clearly about the issue improves your chances.4.      What Are Limiting Modifiers?Limiting modifiers impose restrictions on the words they modify. The most common limiting modifiers are:

  • Almost
  • Hardly
  • Nearly
  • Just
  • Only
  • Merely


Positioning of Limiting ModifiersThe word (or words) a limiting modifier governs is usually immediately to its right in a sentence. In each example below, the limiting modifier is shaded, and the word it governs is in bold.Martin knows hardly anybody.He hardly knows anybody.Only Martin eats pears.Martin eats only pears.The best way to ensure a limited modifier is effectively used in a sentence is to consider the meaning that is to be conveyed and ensure the subject or noun associated with that meaning is placed immediately after the limited modifier.

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