5 Examples of Misplaced Modifiers
You’ve heard that timing is everything. In writing, however, placement takes first place when it comes to conveying meaning. Consider these examples.
1. “So far, the book has only come out in Italian.”
It has only come out in Italian? It hasn’t done anything else in that language? No, it is only in Italian that it has come out. This revision says so clearly: “So far, the book has come out only in Italian.” (The placement of only within a sentence is the most common type of misplaced modifier. It’s forgivable in spoken English, but in writing, it’s best put in its place.)
2. “Then you’ll be able to survive just about anything that life throws at you with confidence and style.”
What, exactly, does life throw at you with confidence and style? Nothing. It’s you, not your life, that exhibits these traits: “Then you’ll be able to survive, with confidence and style, just about anything that life throws at you.”
3. “She broke ground as the first woman to run for president of the United States in 1872.”
This sentence implies that the subject was the first woman to register as a presidential candidate that year. But the meaning is that in that particular year, she became the first such candidate in history. This revision communicates that point: “In 1872, she broke ground as the first woman to run for president of the United States.”
4. “She got a job with an organization that developed policy for youth and children while she was a political science major.”
The impression one gets from this sentence is that the organization carried out its mission only during the duration of the subject’s time at the university. But what it means to say is that she obtained her job with an organization that pursued that objective independently of her tenure, and that she was a student when she did so, as conveyed here: “While she was a political science major, she got a job with an organization that developed policy for youth and children.”
5. “Smith recently presented a paper at a conference titled ‘Averting Bloodshed: The Benefits of Community-Based Mediation Services.’”
To what does the title refer — the paper, or the conference? The proximity of conference to the title implies that the event was so named, but this revision reveals the truth: “Smith, at a recent conference, presented a paper titled ‘Averting Bloodshed: The Benefits of Community-Based Mediation Services.’”
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