In writing, we often use modifiers. A modifier is a phrase, word, or clause that speaks about or describes another word in a sentence. Commonly, there are three types of modifier mistakes, which include misplacing, dangling, and squinting modifiers.
A misplaced modifier is an expression or word which is not placed close enough to the word it modifies. As a result, it might be confusing or sound humorous.
Incorrect: The president talked informally about the cost of living with several men.
Correct: The president talked informally with several men about the cost of living.
As a result, the first phrase might be interpreted as though the president discussed the expense of living with numerous guys, even if this was not the topic of their discussion. In contrast, the meaning is crystal evident when the phrase “with several women” is placed closer toward the verb “chatted,” which implies to alter in the right sentence.
Squinting modifiers are another example of a misplaced modifier. Because it’s not apparent if it alters the content before or after it, the statement loses clarity. Here are some squinting modifiers examples:
Incorrect: The library is open on Monday only for this week.
Correct: The library is open only on Monday for this week.
The adverb “only” is the squinting modifier in the example above. It is unclear whether “only” describes this week or Monday.
Therefore, making a written sentence ambiguous with a squinting modifier is easy. However, sentences with squinting modifiers do not sound ambiguous in a conversation because of voice intonation. But, you must avoid using it when writing because it will look more obvious.
In short, the key point to squinting modifiers that you can take is that you can try to correct a squinting modifier just by changing the position in a sentence. Other than that, you can also try to restructure your sentence.
Usually, a dangling modifier is a phrase frequently found at the beginning of a sentence. A dangling modifier normally refers to a word that is not actually stated in the sentence.
Incorrect: Waking up in the morning, the sound of birds can be heard.
The phrase “waking up in the morning” modifies “the sound of birds”. Technically, it says that the birds woke in the morning. In the beginning of the sentence, the modifier is dangling with nothing to modify with.
Correct: Waking up in the morning, I could hear the sound of birds.
We often use dangling modifiers in conversation, but we should avoid them in formal writing. Here are other examples of dangling modifiers used in conversation:
Incorrect: When five years old, my sister died.
Correct: When I was five years old, I lost my sister.
Correct: When I was five years old, my sister died.
Other than the types of modifiers above, you also need to pay attention to the one called “split infinitive” or some people might refer to it as a split modifier too. It is when you place a word between “to” and a verb.
Incorrect: She is going to quickly run to school so she won’t be late.
Correct: She is going to run to school quickly so she won’t be late.
The example shows that the infinitive link should be “to run” and the splitter link should be “quickly”. To avoid this mistake, try to be careful in putting a word between “to” and a verb.
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