Last updated 2/5/2018
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Visual: “Walden University Writing Center. Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears in center of screen. Background changes to a keyboard on a table and the title “Structuring Sentences: Misplaced Modifiers”. Slide changes to a slide with the header that reads “Misplaced Modifier”. Below is the following text:
When a head is separated from its clause, this is a misplaced modifier:
Audio: When a modifier is not modifying the correct word, we would call that a misplaced modifier. So, here the original sentence is "The study that was extremely difficult was eventually published by a famous researcher." This sentence correctly uses the modifier. In this sentence, the phrase "that was extremely difficult" is describing "the study", and it's important to the meaning of the sentence, which is why there are no commas around it--it's necessary to fully understand the sentence. If those two parts of the sentence get separated, then the sentence might be a little bit confusing and may have a different meaning, so our second sentence is an example of a misplaced modifier.
So in the second example, "The study was eventually published by a famous researcher that was extremely difficult," now it sounds like the researcher was extremely difficult and that's not the original intention of the sentence because really it's the study that was difficult, so this sentence has a misplaced modifier.
So you do have to be very careful when you're using descriptive phrases and clauses that it is clear what they are describing in the sentence, or you may unintentionally be calling a researcher very difficult. So be sure to watch for misplaced modifiers, which can cause confusion in your sentences.
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