Misplaced modifiers confuse readers. They appear to modify what they don’t modify and not to modify what they do. Once recognized, they’re easy to avoid, but seeing them takes practice. Let’s look at one.
While getting out of bed this morning, the alarm clock woke my wife.
What the sentence means to say is that I got out of bed this morning before the alarm rang and that when it rang it woke my wife.
The modifier here is “While getting out of bed this morning.” It should refer to me, but instead, since I don’t appear in the phrase, the reader thinks the phrase modifies the nearest noun; in this case, the radio. To avoid the impression that the radio got out of bed, we need to revise the sentence to clarify the modification.
While I was getting out of bed this morning, the alarm clock woke my wife.
In the following sentences, potatoes try to save money, shoe heels walk from the bus station, a dog talks to the veterinarian, we get washed and waxed, a canyon looks over the edge of a cliff, and tires use a coupon. Solve these problems by cutting and pasting the badly-written sentences into a Reply below and revise them. I don’t need to see both versions. Your finished work should be six good sentences with well-attached modifiers.
1. Trying to save money, potatoes and other cheap foods filled the shopper’s cart.
2. Walking from the bus station to the office, the heel of my shoe fell off.
3. After talking with our veterinarian, the dog didn’t seem quite so sick.
4. Washed, waxed and with four new tires, we got $5,000 for the car.
5. Looking over the edge of the cliff, the canyon looked very deep.
6. By using a coupon, the tires were half-off.