Monster High Freaky Fab
 

Common Usage Dilemmas

Misplaced Modifiers: Lost and Found

You can lose your car keys, your temper, and even your head—but please, don't misplace your modifiers. It's as tacky as a pork chop at a bar mitzvah.

A misplaced modifier is just that: a phrase, clause, or word placed too far from the noun or pronoun it describes. As a result, the sentence fails to convey your exact meaning. But misplaced modifiers usually carry a double wallop: They often create confusion or imply something unintentionally funny. This is not a good thing when you want to make a competent impression with your writing. Here's an example of a misplaced modifier:

You Could Look It Up

A misplaced modifier is a phrase, clause, or word placed too far from the word or words it modifies.

As this sentence is written, it means that the sister, not the puppy, is named Fido. That's because the modifier “they call Fido” is in the wrong place in the sentence. To correct a misplaced modifier, move the modifier as close as possible to the word or phrase it is describing. Here's how the sentence should read:

It Says What?

Study this chart to see how a misplaced modifier can distort a writer's meaning. Then see how I moved the modifier so the sentence makes sense.

Sentence #1: The patient was referred to a psychologist with several emotional problems.

What the writer thinks it says: The patient has emotional problems.

What the sentence really says: The psychologist has emotional problems.

Correction: The patient with several emotional problems was referred to a psychologist.

Sentence #2: Sam found a letter in the mailbox that doesn't belong to her.

What the writer thinks it says: Sam found a letter that doesn't belong to her.

What the sentence really says: The mailbox doesn't belong to Sam.

Correction: Sam found a letter that doesn't belong to her in the mailbox.

Sentence #3: Two cars were reported stolen by the Farmingdale police yesterday.

What the writer thinks it says: The Farmingdale police reported two stolen cars.

What the sentence really says: The police stole the two cars.

Correction: Yesterday, the Farmingdale police reported that two cars were stolen.

Sentence #4: Please take time to look over the brochure that is enclosed with your family.

What the writer thinks it says: Look over the brochure with your family.

Quoth the Maven

To avoid these embarrassing sentence errors, place a modifier as close as possible to the word it modifies or describes. And do something about that tie, please.

What the sentence really says: The brochure is enclosed with your family.

Correction: Please take time to look over the enclosed brochure with your family.

Sentence #5: Luis had driven over with his wife, Chris, from their home in a Chevy for the basketball game.

What the writer thinks it says: Luis and Chris drove in their Chevy to the game.

What the sentence really says: Luis and Chris live in a Chevy.

Correction: Luis had driven over in a Chevy with his wife, Chris, from their home for the basketball game.

Quiz Show

It's show time! To see if you've got the hang of writing sentences with correctly placed modifiers, rewrite each of the following bollixed-up sentences.

  1. The writer read from his new book wearing glasses.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  2. You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  3. As we begin, I must ask you to banish all information about the case from your mind, if you have any.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  4. A superb and inexpensive restaurant; fine food expertly served by waitresses in appetizing forms.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  5. Many of the trustees congratulated him for his speech at the end of the meeting and promised their support.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  6. For sale: An antique desk suitable for a lady with thick legs and large drawers.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  7. For sale: Several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  8. Wanted: Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  9. For sale: Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with a round bottom for efficient beating.
    • ____________________________________________________________________
  10. We almost made a profit of $10.
    • ____________________________________________________________________

Answers

Did you get these nice clear revisions?

  1. Wearing glasses, the writer read from his new book. (Or: The writer, wearing glasses, read from his new book.)
  2. Daily, except Thursday, you are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried.
  3. As we begin, I must ask you to banish any information about the case from your mind.
  4. A superb and inexpensive restaurant; fine food in appetizing forms is served expertly by waitresses.
  5. At the end of the meeting, many of the trustees congratulated him for his speech and promised their support.
  6. For sale: An antique desk with thick legs and large drawers suitable for a lady.
  7. For sale: Several very old dresses in beautiful condition from grandmother.
  8. Wanted: Man that does not smoke or drink to take care of cow.
  9. For sale: Mixing bowl set with round bottoms for efficient beating designed to please a cook.
  10. We made a profit of almost ten dollars.
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Gift Ideas Sure to Please
Find the best gifts for girls, and everyone else on your list! Visit our Holiday Shopping Headquarters. Brought to you by Monster High.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Print this free holiday wish list for kids, so they can tell you what they really want this year! Brought to you by Monster High.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!