Is Your Modifier Misplaced?

Let’s start the new year by taking a look at misplaced modifiers. A modifier is . . . well, what it sounds like. It’s a word or phrase that modifies (affects, changes) another word.

In the phrase “blue ball,” the adjective blue modifies the noun ball. Writers sometimes stick those modifiers in the wrong place in a sentence. Take a look at these lines and see if you can identify the problem:

  • This morning I chased a dog in my pajamas. (Did the dog dress himself?)
  • I sold a desk to a lady that had broken legs. (Poor woman; how will she carry that desk?)
  • We sat on the porch listening to the birds sing while playing cards. (Wow, talented birds.)
  • She saw several whales on vacation in Mexico. (Do whales take vacations?)
  • The hunter waited for the lion with a rifle in his hand. (Or should I say, “in his paw”?)

Modifiers can sneak into the wrong places if we’re not careful.

Solution: Check your long, complex sentences and make them shorter. Break them into two shorter sentences that have clear adjectives connected to (modifying) the noun. Or move the modifying phrase to the proper location in the sentence.

For example: The hunter waited with a rifle in his hand for the lion. Easy.

Now that I found those modifiers, maybe you can tell me where I misplaced my glasses.

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  1. These things never fail to crack me up. I remember one from school days:
    ‘Bruce was given a book from his uncle by the postman, who never forgot his birthday.’ Not as funny as yours but funny enough for me to start sniggering in class and the other kids glaring at me as usual.

  2. LOL they just crack me up. I love the one from Mary Poppins, “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.”

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