A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that is placed in a wrong place in a sentence. Usually, it is placed too far away from the word that it is meant to modify; this results in the wrong word being modified. When this happens, the sentence causes confusion or does not appear to make sense. To correct it requires moving the modifier to the right place, which is next or as close as possible to the word it is to modify.
- Misplaced modifier: He bought a squirrel from a friend with a bushy tail.
(The phrase with a bushy tail is wrongly placed to modify friend. It says that the friend has a bushy tail.)
- Correct: He bought a squirrel with a bushy tail from a friend.
(The phrase with a bushy tail now correctly modifies squirrel.)
- Misplaced modifier: Five occupants of the burning building were reported burnt to death by the police. .
- Correct: The police reported that five occupants of the burning building were burnt to death.
- Misplaced modifier: Gathering on the beach, the UFO was watched by a large number of people. .
- Correct: Gathering on the beach, a large number of people watched the UFO.
- Correct: A large number of people gathered on the beach to watch the UFO. .
- Misplaced modifier: Kept in her safe for many years, she decided to wear her gold necklace. .
- Correct: She decided to wear her gold necklace, which had been kept in her safe for many years.
- Misplaced modifier: With his tail wagging excitedly, Bob was happy to come home to see his dog.
- Correct: Bob was happy to come home to see his dog wagging his tail excitedly.
- Misplaced modifier: She gave her old clothes to the man in a box.
- Correct: She gave her old clothes in a box to the man.
- Misplaced modifier: We nearly lived in that house for five years.
Correct: We lived in that house for nearly five years.
- Misplaced modifier: He almost lost one million dollars in the casino.
Correct: He lost almost one million dollars in the casino.
A squinting modifier is usually an adverb that appears to modify either the words that come before it or those that come after it. This happens because of the positioning of the adverb modifier in a sentence, which is not unlike a misplaced modifier. The presence of a squinting modifier makes the sentence appear unclear or having two possible meanings.
Each of these example sentences has a squinting modifier (boldfaced), which makes the sentence having two possible meanings:
May told her mother after she got married she had no intention to have a child.
She believes massage often improves her blood circulation.
- May told her mother this after she got married; or
- She told her mother before her marriage that she did not intend to have a child after she got married.
He can only lend me ten dollars.
- Massage - often improves her blood circulation; or
- Massage often - improves her blood circulation.
- He has only ten dollars to lend me; or
- He can lend only to me, not to anybody else.