My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Using Modifiers Correctly

Tips from Proofreading: Plain and Simple by Debra Hart May, with my own commentary:
  • "Modifiers are adjectives and adverbs used to enhance the main idea(s) of a sentence...When used incorrectly, they can distort the message. Modifiers can be single words or phrases. To use them correctly, place them near the word or words they modify."
    • If they are put near the wrong part of a sentence, they can accidently be interpreted as modifying a different word or phrase. This can lead to confusion and distortion of the intended meaning of the sentence. To avoid having a modifier applied to the wrong element, keep it as close as possibly to the object. For example, in the sentence "In order to finish your homework, you only have to finish these math problems." The modifier (only) is far away from the phrase it is meant to affect (math problems). After rearranging the sentence, the intended meaning becomes clear: "In order to finish your homework, you have to finish only these math problems." Comparing the two sentences, each conveys a completely different idea.
  • "Modifiers really create problems when the word or words they are intended to modify are missing from the sentence altogether."
    • For example, take the sentence "As an important employee, your work is appreciated." The sentence is awkward because it is completely missing the proper subject. As it stands, the first part of the sentence and the second part of the sentence seem to have nothing to do with each other. It implies that your work is a valued employee (not you). To change this sentence, the correct subject must be put in place. The resulting sentences, "Because you are an important employee, your work is appreciated," or "As an important employee, you are appreciated," sound much better and their meaning is clear.

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