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Part 2 Grammar Skills Review

Misplaced Descriptive Words and Phrases

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that gives information about – or modifies – another word. Adjectives and adverbs are modifiers. Prepositional phrases and noun phrases also can modify and act like adjectives and adverbs. If modifiers are positioned carelessly, texts can be difficult to understand, or even worse, unsuspecting readers may get the impression of having understood when in fact they have not.

Example 1

The girl ate a hamburger in a pink dress.

Here we wonder if the hamburger is dressed in a pink dress. By simply moving “in a pink dress,” we clear up the misunderstanding.

The girl in a pink dress ate a hamburger.

Example 2

While he was on the way to the store, Sam saw a silver woman’s necklace on the ground.

Here we are unsure if Sam saw a necklace belonging to a silver woman. By simply moving the modifier, we correct our error.

While he was on the way to the store, Sam saw a woman’s silver necklace on the ground.

Example 3

Sometimes we must reword the sentence a little after moving the misplaced modifier.

 The precious artwork was reported stolen by the police officer. (Unclear)

 The police officer reported that the precious artwork was stolen. (Corrected)


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To the extent possible under law, Cheryl McCormick, Sue Hank, and Ninna Roth have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Misplaced Descriptive Words and Phrases, except where otherwise noted.

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