Posted by: Jack Henry | May 7, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Misplaced Modifiers

“A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.”

Hmm…what’s wrong with this sentence? Well, according to the way it’s worded, the bar owner has a glass eye, and the eye’s name is Ralph. Instead, the man is named Ralph, and he has a glass eye. This is definitely a misplaced modifier.

Let’s have a look at what misplaced modifiers are and how to fix them.

Modifiers can be adjectives or adverbs that change or add detail to other words or phrases, for example: pretty, hopeful, fast, happy, very, much, many. It’s important to remember that modifiers should be placed close to the words they are modifying.

Adjectives in English usually come before the word they are modifying:

  • The handsome man
  • The furry dog
  • The red hydrant

Adverbs can go before or after the word they are modifying.

  • The very handsome man
  • The dog ran quickly
  • The only hydrant on the street

When you use modifying phrases, they should be near the thing they are modifying so that you don’t end up with a crazy misplaced modifier.

Here are a few examples of misplaced modifiers with some suggestions to correct them:

Misplaced: She served franks and beans to the guests on paper plates.

Corrected: She served the guests franks and beans on paper plates.

Misplaced: The church was reported robbed by Sister Maria last week.

Corrected: Last week, Sister Maria reported that the church was robbed.

Misplaced: Bob saw a goat and a llama on the way to the store.

Corrected: On the way to the store, Bob saw a goat and a llama.

Misplaced: Jane bought a turtle for her brother named Pickles.

Corrected: Jane bought a turtle named Pickles for her brother.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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