For the writer, one challenge is to express ideas precisely. There are many instances where the writer knows what is meant but fails to see what others might understand the meaning to be. Misplaced modifiers (the normal garden variety, along with their dangling and squinting cousins) are a case in point.
In this case the sentence is ambiguous. It could mean either of the following: We manufacture inflatable children’s play equipment. This is easily corrected by moving the adjective, or by rewording the sentence: We manufacture children’s inflatable play equipment. We manufacture inflatable play equipment for children. General Definition: A misplaced modifier (MM) is a descriptive word, phrase, or clause that renders a sentence ambiguous, because the modifier could be applied to various words in the sentence. Consider the following, for example: We manufacture inflatable children’s play equipment.
“Walking through the park” has no subject. Because the next noun is “the grass,” it seems as though “grass” must be the subject, i.e. While the grass was walking through the park it tickled my feet. The words “my feet” could also be the subject, i.e. While my feet were walking through the park the grass tickled them. Neither meaning makes a whole lot of sense. Correct the problem by supplying the missing subject: When I was walking through the park, the grass tickled my feet. Definition: A dangling modifier (DM) is a word, clause, or phrase that has no clear subject, and so it seems to be attached to a word (or words) in another clause or phrase. This error frequently occurs with phrases starting with –ing words: Walking through the park, the grass tickled my feet.
Example: Children who miss school frequently become drop-outs. It is not clear which verb “frequently” applies to. The sentence could mean either one of the following: Children who miss school frequently become drop-outs. These emphases in meaning are very different. Correct the problem by revising the wording of the sentence. Children who frequently miss school become drop-outs. Frequently, children who miss school become droputs. Definition: A squinting modifier (SM) is a word, phrase, or clause that could modify words to either side. It looks in two directions at once.
Examples: 1.The jacket was just too small in the store. 2.Instructors who cancel classes rarely are reprimanded. 3.While driving on Coliseum Boulevard, lightning struck a tree. 4.I bought myself a drink at McDonald’s. Determine whether the sentences which follow are mere garden variety misplaced modifiers, or whether they are dangling or squinting modifiers. Read the sentences, then write either MM, DM, or SM, as the case requires. If there is no error, write “None.” MM SM DM None
1.A small book sat on the desk that Sarah had read. 2.The professor posted the notes for the students covered in class. 3.An old woman ambled slowly across the hall. 4.Changing the oil every 3, 000 miles, the car seemed to run better. 5.Students who seek their instructors’ advice often can improve their grades. MM None MM SM
6.I like to listen to rock music doing my homework. 7.Swinging wildly through the trees, the children were delighted by the monkeys. 8.The young girl was walking the dog in a short skirt. 9.The dog was chasing the boy with the spiked collar. 10.While talking on the phone the doorbell rang. MM DM MM DM
11.Running across the floor, the rug slipped and I lost my balance. 12.He was staring at the girl by the vending machine wearing dark glasses. 13.I heard that there was a revolution on the evening news. 14.Whistling cheerfully, he wandered across the lawn. 15.Traffic sign: Slow Children Playing DM MM None MM
16.They manufacture large-bottomed patient commodes. 17.I was told that I had been awarded the scholarship by my professor. 18.Walking to school on a subzero morning, my left ear became frozen. 19.The old woman had grey hair with blue eyes. 20.I heard that he married a woman with a vast fortune in a small church in Italy. MM DM MM
21.Defining your terms clearly strengthens your argument. 22.The robber was a tall man with a black moustache weighing 150 pounds. 23.Though only sixteen, Ivy Tech accepted Maria’s application. 24.When watching films, commercials are especially irritating. 25.Putting the leash on, the dog bit John. SM MM DM
26.The cat in the alley looked at me with a rat trapped under one claw. 27.Let me know if we should meet in the park near the zoo or the cafe. 28.My sister dropped in while I was scrubbing the floor with her new baby. 29.I searched for a mechanic who would repair my car without success. 30.Cost-efficient and convenient, many of today's corporate employees are being trained through computer-assisted instruction. MM DM
The End PowerPoint Presentation by Mark A. Spalding, BA, MEd, MA (2008). Seriously?