BigDog's Grammar

Misplaced modifiers

A modifier is a word or a phrase that describes something else. You should place it as close as possible to what it describes. If you don't, your intended meaning may not be clear. Consider the unintentional meanings in the following:

You can see what's wrong. The dog isn't "in a short skirt" and the boy doesn't have a "spiked collar." Because the modifier is misplaced, we have to think for a minute before we get the intended meaning. The correct versions are:

See how the proper placement clarifies the meaning?

You also need to watch the placement of modifiers such as almost, even, hardly, nearly, often, and only. A couple of examples should be enough:

  1. Big Dog almost ran around the yard twenty times.
  2. He nearly ate a whole box of treats.

In both sentences--when he "almost ran" and "nearly ate"--nothing happened! He didn't quite get around to doing either thing. What is intended is:

  1. Big Dog ran around the yard almost twenty times.
  2. He ate nearly a whole box of treats.

Remember: if you give your readers a chance to interpret something in more than one way, they'll usually get it wrong! By placing your modifiers correctly, you'll eliminate this possibility and have a better chance of getting your point across.

How about a "Self-Test" to see if you really understand. Designed for 3.0 browsers
(You need to review Dangling Modifiers before taking the test.)

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