Now where I’d put that darned modifier . . . ?

“She stood in the yard on her head.”

That was the sentence that popped into my own head the other day as I was walking the dogs. Misplaced modifier and all.

I actually like the occasional misplaced modifier. They make me think twice about what I’m reading. Oh sure, maybe not in a particularly positive way but at least I think twice about them! I’ll wonder . . . “Hey, did I just read that right?” So I’ll back up, read it again and sure enough, I did read it right. Just that someone else didn’t write it right.

And we need to write our stuff right so that people understand us. Right? Right.

So the modifier, when misplaced or even dangling, is not our friend. We need to put our modifiers as close to the things they modify as we possibly can in order to foster understanding. Not trailing off like a favorite blanket drug behind a sleepy two year old. Or stuck to the wrong object like a magnet gone horribly awry.

“Peggy thought she saw an owl riding her bicycle to Lucy’s house.”

Really? Who?

“He ate a tuna sandwich and a pickle driving to school.”

Wait a minute. What?

Some of them are easier to spot than others. But they’re all sort of funny when you stop to ponder them. Which, apparently, I do. Often enough to write a post about them. And string them together in my head as I walk the dogs.

“Weary from a long day of travel, Sidney’s enthusiasm was tepid, to say the least.”

Here I’ve modified Sidney’s enthusiasm which can’t feel weary. It really can’t feel anything. Maybe say something like: “Weary from a long day of travel, Sidney felt his enthusiasm wane.”

I know we all know not to do this any more. I know we all know how not to misuse our modifiers. But you have to admit, it’s a fun exercise to hang one out there once in a while just to hear the goofiness of it.

Or maybe I’m the only one who thinks so. Maybe I need to get a life that involves a different form of entertainment . . . something other than spending my Saturday nights pondering the misuse of the English language.

Ya think?

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4 Responses to Now where I’d put that darned modifier . . . ?

  1. amy says:

    There IS no better form of entertainment!

  2. tina wissner says:

    How about,

    “Last night I watched a movie and ate popcorn sitting in the front row of the theater.”
    OR
    “I was eating an ice cream cone with only one hand.”

    This IS kinda fun.

    • Linda says:

      It IS kinda fun. I ran across a writing prompt (I think it’s in 3AM Epiphany.. or maybe I just imagined it) where all you do is write grammatically wrong stuff. Just to get a sense of how it feels and to shut that nasty old editor up for a while.

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