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 thoughts on “Grammar Mistake – Incorrect modifier”

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

  2. 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.

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

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

  5. Kateri-Laurence

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

  6. Camille Turcotte-Charbonneau

    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.

    1. 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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