Location of Modification – Misplaced Modifiers
What’s wrong with the following sentence?
Finally thinking clearly, the book was able to be understood by Rebecca.
The meaning of the sentence seems clear enough: Rebecca finally understood the book after she started thinking clearly.
But what does the sentence actually say? If you look closely, you’ll see that the introductory phrase actually refers to “the book,” not “Rebecca”:
Finally thinking clearly, the book was able …
This construction makes it seem as if the book were thinking clearly. What went wrong?
Modifiers can be groups of words – known as adjectival or adverbial phrases or clauses – that describe another part of the sentence. Like adjectives and adverbs, these multiple-word modifiers must be placed as close as possible to the word or group of words they’re modifying.
Modifiers that fail to observe this rule are called “misplaced modifiers.”