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The Use and Misuse of Modifier Magic

The Use and Misuse of Modifier Magic

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The Use and Misuse of Modifier Magic

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  1. The Use and Misuse of Modifier Magic

  2. What is a Modifier? • A word or groups of words that describes, limits, or qualifies the meaning of another word of phrase. • Modifiers can be a word, a phrase, or a clause. • For example: • The silver fish (word) • The fish in the pond (phrase) • The fish that he caught (clause) • A sentence example: • The little boy standing by the concession stand reminds me of my brother. What are the modifiers?

  3. Can you imagine a world without modifiers?

  4. A world without modifiers is a deathly boring world. Modifiers bring your sentences to life. • He gave her the rose. • He gave her the scarlet red rose he picked from the sweet-smelling garden. • I sat by the ocean. • I sat by the crystal blue ocean as the roaring and foamy waves crashed into the beach. • She watched the sunset. • She watched the blood red sun quickly sink below the horizon.

  5. The Purpose of Modifiers • To add detail to sentences. • To make sentences more interesting. • To create clearer communication when correctly used. Modifiers can work magic by bringing your writing to life.

  6. Like all magical powers, modifiers can be used for good or evil. • When used incorrectly modifiers can cause problems such as: • Misplaced modifiers • Dangling modifiers • These modifier problems can result in sentences that are awkward, misleading, or unintentionally humorous.

  7. Misplaced Modifiers • Misplaced modifiers are modifiers that are not put in the right place in a sentence. They can describe the wrong word and change the intended meaning of the sentence. • For Example: • Covered in mud, Mark wiped off the trembling puppy. • Mark wiped off the trembling puppy covered in mud. Who is covered in mud? The puppy is muddy. But it sounds like Mark is covered in mud. How could we correct this sentence?

  8. To avoid misplaced modifiers, make sure to place the modifier as close to the item it modifies as possible. • For example: • Smelling sour, Tamara threw away the milk. Put that arm down Tamara…..whoa, seriously. Was it Tamara that smelled sour? Tamara is not smelling sour, the milk is. “Smelling sour” is the modifier and “milk” is the item being modified.

  9. ….So to correct the sentence, we need to bring the modifier (sour smelling) and the noun being modified (milk) closer together. They’re sometimes shy and need a little help….. Now we have successfully brought together the modifier and the word that is modified. The original sentence read: Sour smelling, Tamara threw out the milk. The corrected sentence should read: Tamara threw out the sour smelling milk. Milk, I’m tired of being apart. I want to be closer to you. Before After Milk, I just think we need to spend some time apart. It’s not you, it’s me. I agree Sour Smelling, our long distance relationship wasn’t working. Sour Smelling Milk

  10. Another example: • Shooting lasers out of his eyes, the mad scientist was no match for the robot. • Corrected: • The doctor was no match for the robot shooting lasers out of his eyes. Was the scientist shooting lasers out of his eyes?

  11. Another Example: • Hidden in a fortune cookie, Sue found the engagement ring. • Sue found the engagement ring hidden in a fortune cookie. What was Sue doing in the cookie? How can we correct this sentence and free Sue from the cookie?

  12. Misplaced groups of words do not cause the only problems…….. Single words can also cause trouble. The cheese stands alone….and he is one stinky cheese.

  13. Use your modifiers carefully, because I am in your computer keeping it going…and watching you. Behold all the possibilities that the varying placement of only one word can create. • What do each of these sentences say: • Only gerbils like to run in wheels. • Gerbils are the only animals that like to run in wheels. • Gerbils only like to run in wheels. • Gerbils won’t run in other places besides the wheel. • Gerbils like only to run in wheels. • Running in wheels is the only activity that gives gerbils pleasure.

  14. For Example: • Jamie almost decided that $20 was too much to pay for a ticket. • Jamie decided that almost $20 was too much to pay for a ticket. • What is going on here? Did Jamie almost decide not to buy the ticket, or did she think that a price close to $20 was too expensive? The placement of the word “almost” matters.

  15. For Example: • Sam followed the recipe, but the cake still came out exactly flat. • Did the cake come out exactly flat? • Corrected: • Sam followed the recipe exactly, but the cake still came out flat. Yup, that cake is exactly flat.

  16. Misplacing modifiers are not the only way one can abuse the magic of modifiers…. • Another modifier problem is called “the dangling modifier.” Dangling modifiers are dangerous to the health of your sentences.

  17. The Dangling Modifier • When a modifier describes a word that does not appear in the sentence, we say the modifier is “dangling.” • The reader will probably try to “attach” it to a word in the sentence, but the result may prove confusing.

  18. How do dangling modifiers occur? Let’s take a look…… • Here is a correct sentence that uses a modifier: • Falling asleep, Trisha steered the car into the trees. • Then the modifier would be left dangling, and we would get a sentence that looked like this…... The Modifier The item modified Falling asleep Trisha There is a clear connection between the modifier and the item modified. But what if that connection was severed?

  19. What is wrong with this sentence? • Falling asleep, the car steered into the bushes. Can a car fall asleep? No. But this sentence seems to say that because the word the modifier was meant to modify (Trisha) has been cut from the sentence. This leaves “Falling asleep” dangling.

  20. What is wrong with this sentence? • While waiting for the bus, the sky turned threatening. Who is waiting for the bus? It is not clear. The modifier “while waiting for the bus” is dangling. Because there is no subject, it seems as though the sky is waiting for the bus. Oh man! The bus left me again. If I ever meet that driver in a dark alley, I’ll…I’ll…rain all over his head!

  21. How can we correct this sentence? • While waiting for the bus, the sky turned threatening. • When correcting a dangling modifier you have 2 options: • 1. You can insert a subject near the start of the sentence. • 2. You can insert a subject after the comma. • For this example, #1 works best: • While we waited for the bus, the sky turned threatening.

  22. Another Example: • After running the marathon, exhaustion overcame me. What does the modifier “after running the marathon” modify? That word is missing from the sentence. Oh no!! I was just overcome by Exhaustion!! It seems like “exhaustion” is running the marathon. The end is in sight, I must keep going!! I’m wining, I’m winning! Exhaustion will never catch me! Exhaustion

  23. How can we correct the sentence? • After running the marathon, exhaustion overcame me. • Remember, you have 2 options: • Insert a subject at the beginning of the sentence, or • Insert a subject after the comma • Option #1 • After I ran the marathon, exhaustion overcame me. • Option #2 • After running the marathon, I was overcome by exhaustion. OR

  24. One More Example: • While kneading the dough, the oven warmed up. • Correction: • While Normakneaded the dough, the oven warmed up. We know that the oven is not kneading the dough. So how could we correct this sentence? Who is kneading the dough? There is no subject to perform that action. Therefore it sounds like the oven is kneading the dough.

  25. Caution to Writers • Spotting dangling modifiers in your own writing may prove difficult. • Your brain automatically supplies the missing information. • So as you edit your paper, think of your reader. You may know what you mean, but he or she might be confused.

  26. Now that you have learned to harness the magic of modifiers for good, it is time to practice your skills! Let’s begin by correcting misplaced modifiers. Remember to bring the modifier and the item modified closer together! Item modified Modifier

  27. How could we correct this misplaced modifier? • The woman was feeding the cat in blue pumps. • What is the modifier? • in blue pumps • Who is wearing the pumps? • The woman • Move the modifier (in blue pumps) closer to the item it modifies (woman). • Corrected: • The woman in blue pumps was feeding the cat.

  28. How could we correct these misplaced modifiers? • Beating his chest, Stewart watched the gorilla go berserk. • Corrected: • Stewart watched the gorilla beating his chest go berserk. • Jane came close to winning the race. She almost sprinted at the finish and beat her competitor. • Corrected: • She sprinted at the finish and almost beat her competitor.

  29. Now let’s review “dangling modifiers!” Remember that dangling modifiers are dangling because the sentence is lacking a word for them to modify. You must correct the sentence by supplying the missing information.

  30. How could we correct this dangling modifier? • Having finished the main course, dessert was eaten. • What is the modifier? • Having finished the main course • What does it modify? • The sentence is missing a word for it to modify. • “Having finished the main course” is an action • But there is no “doer” of that action. • We need to insert a subject to perform the action • Correction: • Having finished the main course, the family ate dessert.

  31. How could we correct these dangling modifiers? • After visiting the processing plant, meat will never seem the same again. • Did the meat visit the processing plant? • Corrected: • After visiting the processing plant, I’ll never see meat the same again. • The fundraiser was a success, having run 100 laps for $10,000. • The fundraiser did not run laps. • Corrected: • The volunteers made the fundraiser a success, having run 100 laps for $10,000.

  32. Go forth and use the magic of modifiers to improve your writing! I foresee grammatically-correct, vibrant, and well constructed sentences in your future.