Misrelated Modifier

The reader shouldn't have to guess what you're trying to say.

All modifiers should connect clearly and immediately with the words you want them to modify. The reader shouldn't have to guess what you're trying to say.

Change:

Louisa saw some strange mushrooms playing in the park.

to:

While playing in the park, Louisa saw some strange mushrooms.

Probably it wasn't the mushrooms but Louisa playing in the park. By placing the modifying phrase right next to the word it modifies, we eliminate the confusion. Sometimes careless modifier placement can create several possible meanings.

Change: All afternoon I reminisced about friends I had known with my sister.

to:

All afternoon I reminisced with my sister about friends I had known.

or:

All afternoon I reminisced about friends my sister and I had known.

or:

All afternoon my sister and I reminisced about friends we had known.

In the first example "with my sister" is confusing because it could modify either "reminisced" or "had known" or both. The writer has a responsibility to make such relationships clear.

Activity

4.17 Edit the following sentences for clarity of modification.

a. Rounding the corner too quickly, a light post was sheared-off by the school bus.

b. By not doing my assignments, the course was flunked.

c. After considering all the evidence, the defendant was convicted by a jury of his peers.

d. I found a ripe apple on the counter, which I ate.

e. We have harder lessons for advanced students with difficult problems.

f. I saw him break the window drinking in the park.