Misplaced Modifiers Exercise (377)

The following sentences contain modifying words or phrases that are separated from the words modified. Edit the sentences to correct the errors. Two of the sentences require a little rewriting; three can be improved by changing word order.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: At the age of ten, my father’s family emigrated from France.
Correct : When my father was ten, his family emigrated from France.

Any revision that makes it clear that the introductory phrase "at the age of ten" refers to the father and not to the family is acceptable.

2.
Original: While working in the front garden, the mail carrier brought me a package.
Correct : While I was working in the front garden, the mail carrier brought me a package.

The simplest way to make it clear that the speaker and not the mail carrier is working in the front garden is to change the introductory phrase into an introductory clause.

3.
Original: I heard that there was a revolution on the radio.
Correct : I heard on the radio that there was a revolution.

Although in conversation there is probably no way that anyone would hear the original sentence and think a revolution was occurring on the radio, in writing it is wise to place prepositional phrases as close as possible to the verbs they modify.

4.
Original: She barely spent ten minutes on her homework.
Correct : She spent barely ten minutes on her homework.

Another error common in conversation is placing a limiting modifier (barely) by the verb instead of by the words it limits. The words being modified by barely are "ten minutes."

5.
Original: He only works on weekends.
Correct : He works only on weekends.

Only is another limiting modifier. The original sentence may be analyzed to mean that the person mentioned does nothing but work on the weekend; the intended meaning is that when he works, he works only on the weekend.

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