Every author uses modifiers whether you are a professional writer or not. Modifiers are all about adding detail or description to a writing. It can consist of a single word, a phrase, or a clause. Modifiers are the needed element in writing that brings it to life for the reader. They can be adjectives, adjective clauses, adverbs, adverb clauses, absolute phrases, infinitive phrases, participle phrases, and prepositional phrases.
Let’s start with something easy:
The turtle sat.
The fat turtle sat.
The fat turtle sat on a log.
The fat turtle sat on a broken log.
The fat turtle sat on a broken log in the pond.
The fat turtle sat on a broken log in the mossy pond.
See what I did there? With each new word, I added a modifier. Now compare the first sentence with the last one. Which provides a better image in your mind? Hopefully, it was the last one.
How about this sentence?
“I go to the beach.”
What if I add in a modifier…
“I go to the beach every day.”
See how adding these two words have changed the sentence? Whereas the first example is pretty straightforward, this second example lets the reader know that the character/author must like going to the beach if they’re doing it every day.
Let’s look at that second sentence further:
“I love going to the beach every day.”
Here the fact the character/author likes going to the beach is confirmed.
What if I add more? The following passage has a variety of adjectives included (the easiest ones to incorporate) as well as an example of an adjective clause, an adverb, an adverb clause, an absolute phrase, an infinitive phrase, a participle phrase, and lastly, a prepositional phrase.
“I really love going to the beach every day. The beach, which is full of life if you look closely, is an amazing place to explore.
Along the length of the beach is sand covered in seashells—eventually finding the biggest one is the best part. After spending my day in the sun, I look forward to what the evening will bring. To see the sun set is a beautiful sight. And later, sweeping across the night sky, the stars make the day complete. “
Adjectives = love, amazing
Adjective clause = which is full of life if you look closely
Adverb = really
Adverb Clause = After spending my day in the sun
Absolute Phrase = eventually finding
Infinitive Phrase = to explore
Participle Phrase = sweeping across the night sky
Prepositional Phrase = Along the beach
These added details are modifiers, and when used, they modify the original sentence of going to the beach.
Now … sometimes when reading, I’ll come across a misplaced modifier. Yes, it’s possible to put a modifier or descriptive word in the wrong location. Why is it wrong? Because it can change the meaning of the sentence. The key to remember here is that the modifier needs to be as close to the word it’s modifying as possible.
Example one: “I only smile at people I know.”
Example two: “I smile at only people I know.”
Example three: “I smile at people only I know.”
Example four: “Only I smile at people I know.”
So obviously there’s a variety of places the modifier—only—can be placed.
Example one tells the reader that this person only smiles at people they know, as in they don’t wave, wink, hug, etc. at these people.
Example two tells the reader that this person only smiles at people they know. This means they don’t smile at people they don’t know (strangers).
Example three tells the reader that this person smiles at people only they know. Based on the placement of the modifier, it sounds like the people the speaker is referring to only know the speaker. They don’t know anyone else except the speaker; so that’s a very unlikely “correct” placement.
Example four tells the reader that this person is the only one who smiles at people they know. This means that while these people may know other people, it is only the speaker who smiles at them and no one else. Again, this seems unlikely.
In the end, a lot of the time, the modifier can be misplaced but the reader does not notice because while reading, they’ll overlook the word placement and know or assume what the author meant to say. and vice versa. Looking back to the four above examples, I want the modifier to modify the noun smile, and so I would go with example one.
Here’s a page with additional information regarding the modifier: http://linguistech.ca/Tips+and+Tricks+-+Dangling+and+Misplaced+Modifiers
I hope you have found this blog useful. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, jokes, funnies, please feel free to contact me. Thanks for reading!