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Grammar Mistake – Incorrect modifier

Incorrect modifier

Watch for an incorrect modifier

Watch for an incorrect modifier

Let’s find out about the three kinds of incorrect modifier.

Incorrect modifier 1: misplaced modifier

What’s wrong with this sentence?

After working for hours on a blog post, readers found it to be one of the best that Frank  wrote.

The problem is not that readers write our blog posts, although we’re open to guest bloggers.

Using a misplaced modifier is a common writing problem for many non-native speakers of English. Native speakers can make this mistake too.

A “modifier” is a word, phrase or clause that describes another part of the sentence.

In the example, the phrase, “After working for hours on a blog post,” modifies the wrong word, “readers.” The phrase should refer to “Frank,” who in fact loves writing blog posts  – believe me!

Incorrect modifier 2: dangling modifier

A second common writing problem is called the dangling modifier. Look at this example:

 Although well-written and clear, the editor still found some mistakes.

Can you spot the problem? The word or phrase that is supposed to be modified or described does not even appear in the sentence. This problem is called a dangling modifier.

The phrase “although well-written and clear” should refer to a document, such as the first draft of a book

Incorrect modifier 3:  squinting modifier

Rewrite an incorrect modifier

Rewrite an incorrect modifier

Finally, a third problem is called by grammarians the “squinting modifier.

What’s the problem with this sentence?

Frank only wrote this week’s BEHQ post.

Well, it’s not clear what the meaning is. It can confuse the reader. We’re not sure if only Frank wrote the blog post. Or we’re not sure if writing this week’s BEHQ post was the only thing Frank wrote this week.

How do you correct misplaced, dangling or squinting modifiers?

Make sure that there is a word or phrase that follows a modifier and that it correctly identifies the word or phrase. Otherwise, you leave your reading dangling – confused, or squinting – not seeing clearly.

Other examples of mistaken modifiers. Can you correct them?

  1. Having completed the audio recording, the podcast was uploaded to YouTube.
  2. Senior managers only enjoyed this week’s BEHQ blog post.
  3. Featuring interesting graphics, Frank strongly recommend reading BEHQ articles.

Answers:

  1.  Having completed the audio recording, Frank uploaded the podcast to YouTube.
  2.  Only senior managers enjoyed this week’s BEHQ blog post. Senior managers enjoyed only this week’s BEHQ blog post.
  3.  Featuring interesting graphics, BEHQ articles are strongly recommended by Frank .
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Frédérique January 7, 2013, 7:48 pm

    This post was really helpful, because I often make this kind of mistakes and it helped me understand how to correct them.

  • Amanda January 8, 2013, 12:42 am

    This particular post helped me realize the many mistakes in my grammar. It also illustrated the common mistakes made in the use of different types of modifiers.

    • Frank January 9, 2013, 8:30 pm

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for your comment. Have a look at some of the other posts in “Common Mistakes in Writing.”

  • Léo March 11, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Although I’m already very fluent in English, I found this post very interesting and helpful.

    • Frank March 11, 2013, 5:07 pm

      Hi Leo,

      Thanks for your comment. Don`t forget to apply it in your writing when you revise any text you write.

  • Simon March 11, 2013, 12:26 pm

    This video helped me correct and avoid awkward sentences. Thank you.

  • Genevieve March 11, 2013, 12:29 pm

    This blog post was very useful because it helped me understand some of the mistakes I make when I write.

  • Samuel March 11, 2013, 12:30 pm

    This was a very good post about mistakes I didn’t even knew about.

  • Marie-Ève Paradis March 12, 2013, 4:21 pm

    This post was very interesting. I’ll be careful not to make this mistake again!

  • etienne doiron March 12, 2013, 4:22 pm

    This was clear and easy to understand.

  • Félix Gagné March 12, 2013, 4:25 pm

    It’s really mechanical and that helps me understand a lot. Very close to programming language in some ways.

  • Joshua March 12, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Easy to understand.

  • Emilie March 12, 2013, 4:28 pm

    It was really helpful i’ll try making less mistakes.

  • Eric March 12, 2013, 4:28 pm

    Wow! It’s the first time I hear somebody really explain this mistake to me. Thank a lot!

  • Marie March 12, 2013, 4:43 pm

    This post was really helpful. I will definitely pay more attentions to that when I will review the texts I will write. Thank you

  • Kateri-Laurence March 12, 2013, 4:44 pm

    Although this videoclip was very helpful, I would have liked to see visual examples of fixed modifiers. Thank you!

  • Camille Turcotte-Charbonneau March 12, 2013, 4:45 pm

    This was very useful. I realised it was a mistake that I often made and now that I understand it; I won’t make it again.

  • Eva March 12, 2013, 5:07 pm

    Good content and effective explanations.

    • Frank March 13, 2013, 7:30 pm

      Hi Eva,

      Thanks for the nice comment. We really appreciate it. Are there any other writing sore points that you’d like us to explain?

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