Scribblings of a grammatically challenged soul - Part 5
Modifier adds information to another element in the sentence. Typically the modifier can be removed without affecting the grammar of the sentence. Essentially, modifiers breathe life into sentences. Without modifiers, sentences would be no fun to read. Carefully chosen, well-placed modifiers allow you to depict situations with as much accuracy as words will allow.
This is a red ball, the adjective red is a modifier, modifying the noun ball. Removal of the modifier would leave This is a ball, which is grammatically correct and equivalent in structure to the original sentence.
I walked in and out of dozens of stores yesterday, searching for the perfect purse.
Shopping with Lisa today, I found a great purse.
Paint it correctly
While modifiers add detail and interest to sentences, they must be used carefully so that the reader understands the details being added. For example based on the position of modifier, below sentances can make two very different impressions.
I almost failed every class I took (although it was close, I passed all those classes)
I failed almost every class I took (I passed only a few classes)
Generally we make two major modifier mistakes: dangling modifiers and misplaced modifiers.
A dangling modifier occurs when the subject of the modifier is unclear.
Walking along the road, a vulture loomed overhead.
Here whoever was "walking along the road" is not mentioned in the sentence, so the modifier (walking along the road) has nothing to modify, except a vulture, which is clearly not the intention. Such a case is called a "dangling modifier"
Having seen Blackpool Tower, the Eiffel Tower is more impressive.
The example above intimates that the Eiffel Tower has seen the Blackpool Tower !
Corrected version: Having seen Blackpool Tower, I am more impressed with the Eiffel Tower.
Being born in Dawlish, it is understandable that I miss the sea so much.
In this example, "it" was not born in Dawlish.
Corrected version: Being born in Dawlish, I understand why I miss the sea so much.
How to repair dangling modifiers:
Find/Create the correct word for the modifier to describe. Place it next to the modifier.
Once corrected and rewritten, I got an A grade.
In this sentence, the modifier once revised and corrected is positioned next to I, suggesting that "I" have been "revised and corrected."
Correct version: Once corrected and rewritten, my paper got an A grade.
Misplaced modifiers occur when the subject of the modifier is unclear because the modifier is poorly placed. The reader may be unsure of what word the modifier is describing.
The jacket was just too small in the store.
The placement of the modifier in the store implies that the jacket was too small in the store. jacket suddenly changed size when worn in other locations ?
Correct version: The jacket in the store was just too small.
After our lessons, we could understand the Spanish spoken by our visitors from Madrid easily.
Do we understand Spanish easily, or do the visitors speak it easily?
Correct version: We could easily understand the Spanish spoken by our visitors from Madrid.
By accident, he poked the little girl with his finger in the eye.
Girl with his finger ?
Correct version: By accident, he poked the little girl in the eye with his finger.
Defining your terms clearly strengthens your argument.
Does defining "clearly strengthen" or does "defining clearly" strengthen ?
Correct version: Defining your terms will clearly strengthen your argument.
or A clear definition of your terms strengthens your argument.
Although nearly finished, we left the play early because we were worried about our sick cat.
The way this sentence is structured, the clause "Although nearly finished" illogically modifies "we," the pronoun directly following the clause.
Correct version: Although the play was nearly finished, we left early because we were worried about our sick cat.
The vendor almost sold all of her pottery at the crafts fair.
The vendor sold almost all of her pottery at the crafts fair.
Our vender will select the second statement!
She served food to the children on paper plates.
Children on paper plates ?
Correct version: She served food on paper plates to the children.
Man walked towards the car carrying a briefcase.
Car carrying a brief case ?
The man carrying a briefcase walked towards the car.
One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know.
(Animal crackers (movie): The American Film Institute listed this at number 53 in the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. Why spoil the fun by correcting this one! )