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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Misplaced Modifiers

No, I don't mean I lost my modifiers, but they tend to look out of place in sentences. They can also confuse the heck out of readers!

A misplaced modifier is a descriptive word or phrase that inadvertently describes/modifies the wrong noun. Remember that if you're showing action, that action has to reflect back to the person/animal/object doing the action. If you're using an adjective to describe someone or something, it has to reflect the right noun.

Examples:
1) Walking into the wind, the snow blew right in her face.

We have a phrase (walking in the wind) that shows action. The way this is written, the snow is doing the action. Can snow walk into the wind? Not the last time I checked! Obviously, "her" is the one walking into the wind. That means the sentence needs rearranging to place the correct noun directly after the modifier.
Possible rewrites:
a) Snow blew right in her face as she walked into the wind.
b) Walking into the wind, she got a face full of blowing snow.

***

2) Too tired to study, his biology book made a better pillow than study guide.

This time we have an adjective phrase (too tired to study). It's currently saying that his biology book is too tired to study. Sorry, but books don't get tired. :) Whoever owns the books is the one who's tired, so we need to place the owner of the book directly after the phrase.
Possible rewrites:
a) Too tired to study, he used his biology book as a pillow rather than a study guide.
b) He was too tired to study, so he used his biology book as a pillow.

***

3) Lonely, the moon made a great listener as he howled.

Who's lonely? This sentence says it's the moon. I suppose the moon could be lonely, but that isn't the intended meaning.

Possible rewrites:
a) He was lonely, and the moon made a great listener as howled out his problems.
b) Lonely, he howled his problems to the moon. It made a great listener.

If your sentence starts with a modifying word or phrase, be sure it's talking about the noun you want it to reflect! We'll take a look at Backstory vs. Exposition next week!

***REMINDER: You can still comment for a chance to win 1 of 5 pdf copies of Playing in the Raine!!! Or drop me an e-mail at mellanieszereto@hotmail.com to enter!***

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

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