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
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?
- Having completed the audio recording, the podcast was uploaded to YouTube.
- Senior managers only enjoyed this week’s BEHQ blog post.
- Featuring interesting graphics, Frank strongly recommend reading BEHQ articles.
- Having completed the audio recording, Frank uploaded the podcast to YouTube.
- Only senior managers enjoyed this week’s BEHQ blog post. Senior managers enjoyed only this week’s BEHQ blog post.
- Featuring interesting graphics, BEHQ articles are strongly recommended by Frank .