August 9

Building Blocks of English V: Modifiers

I struggled to map in my mind which topic to cover after phrases, which seemed like a logical follow-up to clauses.  Eventually, I decided on modifiers.

Now, without getting into the many different forms of modifiers, I want to start out basic building blocks on this topic by giving you two ironclad rules concerning modifiers.

Actually, they are conjoined rules, so you could say they comrpise just one dictate, to wit:  Modifiers must appear immediately before or immediately after that which they modify.  Otherwise, they become errors known as [tag]dangling modifiers[/tag] and [tag]misplaced modifiers[/tag].

Here are two examples of correctly placed modifiers:

"Hungy, John stopped at McDonald’s to order some food."

"John, hungry, stopped at McDonald’s to order some food."

Notice that both of these sentences adhere to the only-before and only-after rule.  John is being modified, and the modifier is hungry.

Now look at this:

"John stopped at McDonald’s for food, hungry."

This is a classical misplaced modifier error, which we are all prone to do in speech.  In writing, however, we should be able to catch these flubs.

Next time:  More on dangling and misplaced modifiers.



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Posted August 9, 2007 by Gary McCarty in category "Grammar Sucks

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