The Case of the Misplaced Modifier

A common syntax problem for writers involves misplaced modifiers. MMs can also occur as dangling participles. Either can cause your reader to burst out in laughter even if you aren’t writing a comedy.

Watch for sentences like: Eager to be starting their married life together, the wedding was held at the courthouse. The wedding was eager?

Here’s one from author Elizabeth Sinclair, whose

young daughter rushed into the house declaring, “I just saw a deer riding my bicycle!” Her older sister asked, “A deer was riding your bicycle?”

As a child, I puzzled over Davy Crockett and how he “killed him a bear when he was only three.” Was the bear three? If so, how did Davy know his age? If Davy was three, how did he manage to kill the bear?

I’m sure the newscaster wasn’t trying for a chuckle when she said: The police officer arrested the man who had tried to carjack the couple brandishing a weapon. Brave carjacker!

To avoid misplaced and misleading modifiers, identify the subject and verb of your sentence. Then be sure your modifier refers back to the subject. If it doesn’t, you need to re-word.

Happy summer!

Cheryl

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