Misplaced Modifiers Exercise (586)

Revise each sentence so that a modifying phrase is not associated with the wrong noun phrase.

Answers and Explanations

Original: District attorneys only filed charges in fourteen cases that year.
Correct : District attorneys filed charges in only fourteen cases that year.

The phrase "only filed charges" implies that the district attorneys didn’t file anything else besides charges. The precise meaning is that they filed charges in only fourteen cases, so that word order is best. This type of error often occurs in conversation, but the proper syntax should be observed in writing.

Original: He wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in hindsight.
Correct : With hindsight, he wouldn’t have invaded Iraq.

This sentence reads as if the subject wouldn’t have invaded the country in a manner identified as "in hindsight." The sentence’s meaning is clearer if the modifying phrase begins the sentence.

Original: In the trunk, she found a green woman’s overcoat.
Correct : In the trunk, she found a woman’s green overcoat.

Listeners and readers are likely to understand that the adjective "green" refers to the color of the overcoat, not the woman, but the proper placement is immediately before "overcoat."

Original: Ensure that business stakeholders are continually updated, and management as appropriate, on messaging of programs, including successes, issues, concerns, or feedback.
Correct : Ensure that business stakeholders, and management as appropriate, are continually updated on messaging of programs, including successes, issues, concerns, or feedback.

For clarity, the phrase "and management as appropriate" should, like its parallel phrase "business stakeholders," appear before the verb.

Original: Baseball and football fans make noise, but they sound like golf aficionados compared to wrestling fans.
Correct : Baseball and football fans make noise, but compared to wrestling fans, they sound like golf aficionados.

The end of the sentence seems to deviate in intent from the statement’s beginning, apparently comparing fans of wrestling with fans of golf, when that is not its point. The revision correctly expresses the writer’s opinion that the noisemaking of wrestling fans makes baseball and football fans seem as subdued as golf fans by comparison. It also saves the amusing juxtaposition of polite golf fans with the much more vocal spectators of the other sports for the very end of the sentence.

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