Misplaced, Dangling and Squinting Modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes or adds details to a sentence. In the below examples, the modifiers are italicized.

  • I went through all the stores yesterday, looking for the perfect gift.
  • While walking on the sand, she removed her slippers.

One should place modifiers carefully so that the reader understands what is being modified. Writers, generally, make three types of modifier mistakes: misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.

 

Misplaced modifier: 

A misplaced modifier is a wrongly placed modifier that makes the subject of the modifier unclear. The reader may not be sure of the word the modifier is describing or may think of a different word being described instead of the intended one. Consider the below examples:

INCORRECT: The man walked towards the building carrying a box.

In this sentence, the building is carrying a box, which is illogical.

REVISED: The man carrying a box walked towards the building.

INCORRECT: We returned the packets to the store that was new.

REVISED: We returned the new packets to the store.

INCORRECT: She served biscuits to the children on paper plates.

REVISED: She served biscuits on paper plates to the children.

Dangling modifier:

When a modifier improperly modifies something in a sentence, it is called a dangling modifier. It is often located in the beginning or at the end of a sentence. The error may occur because the modifier has nothing to refer or is placed next to the wrong noun that it does not modify. Consider the following examples:

INCORRECT: To improve his outcomes, the analysis was done again.

Who wanted to improve outcomes? This sentence indicates that the analysis wants to improve its own outcomes.

REVISED: He improved his outcomes by doing the analysis again or

To improve his outcomes, he performed the analysis again.

INCORRECT: After reviewing the research article, it remains unconvincing.

REVISED: After reviewing the research article, I find the article unconvincing.

INCORRECT: When ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

REVISED: When I was ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

Squinting modifier:

squinting modifier may describe two situations, i.e., either the word before it or the word after it. In other words, it is an ambiguously placed modifier. Consider the below example:

INCORRECT: I told my daughter after she completed her homework we would play together.

The above sentence is not clear.

Does it mean that I told my daughter after she completed her homework? Does it mean that we would play together after she completed her homework?

REVISED: After she had completed her homework, I told my daughter we would play together. Or, I told my daughter we would play together after she completed her homework.

SENTENCES AND PHRASES

The first step to develop your writing style is to focus on sentences and phrases. The more you practice with different sentences and phrases, the more you improve and enhance your writing style.

Let us again understand the grammatical terminologies of a sentence. A sentence can be briefly defined as a group of words that consists of a subject (i.e., someone or something that does an action) and a verb (the action). The least group of words is called a clause. Some sentences may also contain an object (the thing or person acted upon).

The report recommended changes.
Subject Verb Object

If the word group has no subject or no verb, but its still makes some basic sense, then it is a phrase. It is a fragment and not a complete sentence, and is often used to create colorful and imagistic effects. These can be used in creative writing, but try to avoid using them in formal or specialist styles.

 

Phrase: While crossing the river.

Sentence: While crossing the river, he slipped on the wet stepping stones.

Make sure you consider the following qualities while writing complete sentences:

1. A verb that shows time: Include something that happens or is described in the past, present, or future. If the group of words has no verb, then it is a fragment. Even if it contains a verb but no tense, it fails to qualify as a complete sentence. Remember, gerunds (-ing) and infinitives (-to do) are not tensed verbs and can be used as nouns or participles.

Fragment: The committee considering the proposal.

Sentence: The committee considered the proposal.

Sentence: The committee considers the proposal.

Sentence: The committee will consider the proposal.

2. The absence of a subordinating word: Your group of words fails to be a complete sentence if any one of the following words or phrases is placed in front of it:

after if until
although in case when
as provided that whenever
as if since whereas
as though so that whether
because that which
before unless while

Consider the following example:

While common law has long implied that there is a requirement for mutual respect and fair dealings in the employment relationship.

 

The while at the beginning of the sentence implies that there is a second part to this sentence, which contrasts with the information given in the first. Without this second part, the sentence is not complete. To correct this problem, either put a comma after relationship and add another clause, or take away while.

Writing Actions: Blind Writing

‘Blind’ writing is a solution for compulsive editors. If you feel critical about every word you produce and constantly delete and rewrite the same sentence, it may be better not to see what you write. Try typing with a dark screen to help you achieve momentum and mass before crafting your output.

Significance of Audience Analysis

Your audience analysis will determine your choice of content – what and how much information you need to give – and style – how you will present this information. Style refers to the emphasis you put on certain ideas and the tone that you adopt in relation to the information you present: your overall attitude and approach as this manifests in the language you use. Your style is formed through your word choice and sentence structure. So, following the results of your audience analysis, you may decide to show a lighthearted approach through your writing – or maybe an evaluative, serious, pompous or respectful approach. In all, for a text to be successful, there must be writer-reader complicity. In other words, the readers must feel that the writer is on their side, supporting their interests and respecting their needs. If readers feel that a writer treats them as an example of a general category, rather than as specific individuals or a specific company, they are more likely to resist accepting the information given.

Clear Sentences

For clarity, it is also important to keep a check on the sentence length. If sentences are too short, your writing will sound immature; if they are too long, the reader will lose track. Sentence length, should therefore, be not too long and not too short. A skillful writer can produce much longer sentences which remain clear and effective. Some topics and some tasks may tend to require longer sentences. What is important is not that you count up every sentence, but that you think about sentence length when writing, monitor your own writing to ensure that the meaning is always as clear as possible, and explore opportunities to vary sentence length when appropriate. Short sentences aid coherence, whilst longer sentences aid cohesion.

Mind Mapping

What is Mind Mapping ?

Mind mapping is similar to brainstorming but more visual and less linear. Create mind maps by:

  • Starting with a word or image central to your topic.
  • Placing it in the middle of a big sheet of paper and drawing a line radiating out from it to a major subdivision of the topic.
  • Circling that subdivision, and drawing a line radiating out from it to a more specific subdivision.
  • Continue the process until you run out of ideas.

Mind mapping is especially useful to those who find it easier to assimilate and understand schematic information than linear or sentence-based reasoning.

Know how to insert question marks into a sentence

The question mark can be used within a sentence (not just at the end of it) if wished, although you might prefer to use commas and leave the question mark for the end of the sentence it’s your choice, as both ways are correct. For example, take the situation of someone leaving their house in a hurry before a disaster and wondering what they might have time to take with them. The sentence could be written both of the following ways, noting that the second way provides a lot more emphasis:

  • Would I have time to take my car, my horse, my photo album, my laptop, my favorite clothes and jewelry?
  • Would I have time to take my car? my horse? my photo album? my laptop? my favorite clothes and jewelry? Note that you do not need capital letters as it remains one sentence.

In this sentence, the question marks are known as “interrupters” and either emphasize each of the separate question fragments, or show the close-linked nature of them.

Commas

Comma usage is one of the most complex, and most misunderstood, questions of proper punctuation. In some cases there are widely accepted rules governing comma usage; in a few cases, there is more than one acceptable approach. Students often think it’s silly to worry about things such as punctuation: after all, isn’t the legal analysis what really counts? However, when one applies for a job or submits written work to a supervisor, nothing will leave a more negative impression than ignorance of the basic rules of punctuation.

  • When you begin a sentence with a phrase or dependent clause to introduce a subsequent independent clause, separate the clauses with a comma.
  • Use commas to set off a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence, but not to set off a restrictive clause.
  • Use two commas to set off an appositive or an aside in the midst of a sentence.
  • Use two commas, not one, to set off a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence.
  • Place a comma after a transitional word that introduces a sentence.
  • When using commas to separate items in a list, place a comma before the conjunction that precedes the last separate item in the list, unless that last item is a compound term.
  • Use a comma to separate two adjectives that modify the same noun, but do not use a comma if the first of two adjectives modifies the second adjective, but not the noun.
  • Do not use a comma to replace the word “that.”
  • Do not use a comma to separate the parts of a double predicate, unless the sentence would be confusing without it, or the second part of the double predicate requires special emphasis.
  • When joining two independent clauses with a conjunction, place a comma before the conjunction. Conjunctions include the words “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” and “yet.”
  • Generally, use a comma before “which” but not before “that.”
  • Place commas inside, not outside, quotation marks.
  • Use two commas when setting off dates and places.

Full stop – how to use them

Definition

The full stop is a punctuation mark indicating a strong pause. It is used most commonly at the end of a complete sentence like this one.

Examples

  • This is a short sentence. This is another.
  • It happened suddenly in 1996.
  • There are two reasons for this (in my opinion).

Use

The full stop is the strongest mark of punctuation. It is sometimes called the period.

Capitalization Rules

Rules of Capitalization

  1. Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.
  2. Capitalize a proper noun.
  3. Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name. Do not capitalize when the title is acting as a description following the name.
  4. Capitalize the person’s title when it follows the name on the address or signature line.
  5. Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.
  6. Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.
  7. Capitalize points of the compass only when they refer to specific regions.
  8. Always capitalize the first and last words of titles of publications regardless of their parts of speech. Capitalize other words within titles, including the short verb forms Is, Are, and Be.
  9. Capitalize federal or state when used as part of an official agency name or in government documents where these terms represent an official name. If they are being used as general terms, you may use lowercase letters.
  10. Do not capitalize names of seasons.
  11. Capitalize the first word of a salutation and the first word of a complimentary close.
  12. Capitalize words derived from proper nouns.
  13. Capitalize the names of specific course titles.
  14. After a sentence ending with a colon, do not capitalize the first word if it begins a list.
  15. Do not capitalize when only one sentence follows a sentence ending with a colon.
  16. Capitalize when two or more sentences follow a sentence ending with a colon.