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English: Common Grammar Mistake – Misplaced Modifiers

The Civil Service Exam includes what most people refer to as the “Finding the Best Sentence” questions. It is that part of the exam where you’ll be given five sentences and then you’ll have to choose which sentence is best with respect to grammar and usage suitable for business writing. To ace that part of the exam, you have to know the rules of grammar and you have to be familiar with the most common grammar mistakes which most aptitude exams utilize. Among these grammar mistakes are misplaced modifiers.

What is a modifier?
A modifier does exactly what the name implies – it modifies. It is a word, clause, or phrase which changes, alters, describes, limits, or gives more information about something in the sentence.

When is a modifier considered to be misplaced?
A modifier is considered misplaced when it is placed far from the word it should describe, or when it is placed near another word which it does not modify or refer to.

A sentence with a misplaced modifier is NOT the best sentence among your options.

Here are some examples:

  1. Leslie wore her pink dress to her job interview, which was unfortunately stained with ketchup and mayo.
  2. The waiter served a well-done steak to Lorie with garlic butter, jacket potatoes & roasted vegetables.
  3. The farmers sprayed insecticide on their crops wearing protective masks.

As you can see,

  • It appears that the job interview was unfortunately stained with ketchup and mayo in Sentence #1.
  • It seems as if Lorie had garlic butter, jacket potatoes & roasted vegetables with her in Sentence #2.
  • It is somehow implied that the crops wore protective masks in Sentence #3.

To fix these mistakes, you just have to move the modifier next to the appropriate word:

  1. Leslie wore her pink dress, which was unfortunately stained with ketchup and mayo, to her job interview.
  2. The waiter served a well-done steak with garlic butter, jacket potatoes & roasted vegetables to Lorie.
  3. Wearing protective masks, the farmers sprayed insecticide on their crops.

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I'm a Journalism graduate of the University of the Philippines - Diliman and I'm currently taking up units in Professional Education courses. I have written for various blogs, websites, and magazines in the past. Right now, I work as a freelance eBook writer and a mobile app developer.

While I was managing a fledgling online business and being a full-time mom to my four kids - Yana, Yshi, Yza and Vincent Jr., I took the Career Service Examination - Pencil and Paper Test - Professional Level (CSE-PPT- Prof) for the first time in December 2015. I passed and I got lucky enough to be among the Top 10 examinees in my batch, 3rd in the National Capital Region.