Misplaced Modifiers

Modifiers are of course adjectives, adverbs and their various clauses and phrases. Adjectives and adverbs modify or describe other words. Misplaced modifiers are modifiers placed too far from the word it modifies, so that they seem more associated with another word. This can change the meaning of a sentence. For example, do you say, “I found the lady’s red purse,” or “I found the red lady’s purse.” The first sentence is correct, because the purse is red, not the lady.

Adjectives, adverbs, phrases and clauses can all be misplaced to change the meaning of a sentence in an unwanted way. To make sure modifiers are associated with the correct word, make sure the words are placed together in a sentence. Here are more examples of misplaced modifiers and how to fix them.

A misplaced adjective: The stolen lady’s handbag was found.
Fixed: The lady’s stolen handbag was found.

A misplaced adverb: The students used the crayons they were given excitedly.
Fixed: The students excitedly used the crayons they were given.

A misplaced phrase: The dogs are walked in the park with leather collars.
Fixed: The dogs with leather collars are walked in the park.

A misplaced Clause: Someone took the apples from the basket that were ripe.
Fixed: Someone took all the apples that were ripe from the basket.

Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers are two completely different problems. With a misplaced modifier, the modifier appears to modify the wrong word. With a dangling modifier the modifier doesn’t seem to modify any part of the sentence. Dangling modifiers often occur at the beginning of a sentence.

Here is an example of a dangling modifier. “While studying geography, the book fell off the table.” Nothing mentioned in the sentence was actually studying geography. Logically, neither the book nor the table studied. In order to correct the sentence we have to invent a person to study geography. We can either fix the modifier, “While John was studying Geography, the book fell off the table.” or we can fix the rest of the sentence like this. “While studying Geography, John dropped the book.”