What Is a Misplaced Modifier? How to Replace Them?

Sometimes you’ll also see a misplaced modifier at the beginning of a sentence, or even within an adjective phrase that describes what follows. This article will go through many ways on how to recognize and fix misplaced modifiers.

What Is a Misplaced Modifier?

A misplaced modifier makes a sentence ambiguous. For example, if someone wrote “I was at the meeting yesterday; he was there too,” it sounds like he went to the meeting, even though the writer meant that he saw him there last night.

Although this can happen in any sentence, it’s most common with sentences that start with a phrase like “as,” “like,” or “while.” If you’re not paying close attention as you’re writing or editing your work, you or your readers could end up with a sentence that makes no sense.

Though some sentences will correctly use the word “as” to introduce a phrase, there are many times it is unintentional. The easiest way to identify a misplaced modifier is by looking at the whole sentence. If the writer described him or her as being unusual, then it is likely that the writer intends “as” in introducing a phrase.

Examples of Misplaced Modifiers

  • “When he came out, I was playing tennis.”

This sentence could mean that he may or may not have come out while you were playing tennis. Whereas “He came out while I was playing tennis” indicates that he did play tennis that night.

  • “She arrived in a blue sweater.”

Although this is a correct sentence, “blue sweater” isn’t used as a noun. She has arrived in a blue sweater, not she arrived in a blue sweater.

In the original sentence, it was accidentally written without a modifier that clearly describes what’s coming next. Typically, misplaced modifiers are easy to fix by rewriting them correctly. An error like this one, however, can result in confusion.

  • “I was at the meeting yesterday; he was there too.”

This sentence could mean that the writer went to the meeting and saw that he had already been there last night. The sentence also sounds incorrect because you cannot be at two places at once.

If you’re confused, you can rephrase the sentence so that it makes sense.

Here’s one example: “I saw him at the meeting yesterday; he was there too.” This correct sentence communicates clearly that you saw him last night.

  • “She went at his apartment because he had locked himself out of his house.”

The following sentences are an example of misplaced modifiers. Although this sentence is correct, “at” is not needed here. The word gives the impression that he was there too, when in fact, she went to his apartment because he had locked himself out of his house.

This minor correction clearly communicates that she didn’t go to his apartment and stay there. She simply went there to help him.

What Are Dangling Modifiers?

We know the answer to what is a misplaced modifier, but what are dangling modifiers? A dangling modifier is a modifier that is not in the sentence.

For example, my sister went to the doctor this morning. “This morning” is not a noun here, so it’s not clear what exactly she went to the doctor for.

If you write, “This morning I went to the doctor,” it is clear that you went to the doctor and not that you almost did, but then decided not to.

A dangling modifier occurs when we aren’t clear what exactly we are saying. When writing a sentence, make sure it smoothly flows and that your readers understand it. If you are not sure about what to say, ask yourself: “Is this a confusing sentence? If so, can I reword it to make it less confusing?”

It’s okay to write a confusing sentence, but if it is confusing to your readers, then you’ll need to rewrite it until you are satisfied with the wording.

Misplaced Modifier: A Common Problem

A misplaced modifier is just one of many problems that can occur when you write a sentence. So, it’s important to know how to recognize particular problems with your writing and how to fix them. Both are important parts of good writing.

It’s important for writers to know how the English language works and its rules. By doing so, you write better sentences and communicate more clearly. This will not only help you as a writer but also make reading your work a more pleasant experience.

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