Sunday, April 21, 2024

Tips to Correct Misplaced Modifiers


girl pointing at computer

A dangling or misplaced modifier does not clearly modify the word it intends to. There are usually two reasons: 1) It is not located near the word it modifies, or 2) The word it intends to modify is missing from the sentence.


A squinting modifier can modify either the word that precedes it or the word that follows it, thus creating ambiguity.


Misplaced modifiers can create mental pictures that are often humorous.

Here is something that was posted on Facebook: “Does anyone have a used car seat for a child they are ready to sell?”


Sometimes, it’s possible to read a sentence that contains a misplaced or dangling modifier and not notice the error. As always, it is easier to detect the mistakes in other people’s writing than it is in your own. You know what you are trying to say, but you will say it badly if the modifiers are out of place in the sentence.


A modifying phrase or clause must clearly modify a word in the sentence. If there is no word to which the modifier is attached, the modifier is misplaced.


Confusing: Carrying an armful of flowers, his foot caught on the steps.

His foot is not carrying the flowers. There is no word in the sentence for the participial phrase to modify, so it contains a dangling modifier. Sometimes you must add a word for the phrase to modify.

Corrected: Carrying an armful of flowers, he caught his foot on the steps.


Another way writers can confuse readers is by placing a modifier in a sentence that could modify two different words. As a result, the reader will not understand the writer’s intended meaning. This error is called using a squinting modifier. (Sometimes, it is called using a two-way modifier.)


Confusing: Todd said after the game Jack acted like a jerk.

Since the phrase after the game could modify the word said or acted, the meaning of this sentence is not clear. Did Todd say this after the game, or did Jack act like a jerk after the game? Depending on what the intended meaning was, the sentence could be corrected in two different ways.

Clear: After the game, Todd said Jack acted like a jerk.

Clear: Todd said Jack acted like a jerk after the game.


To avoid dangling modifiers, be sure to place the modifier close to the word it modifies.

· Sometimes, you must add a word to the sentence, and sometimes, you can move the modifying word, phrase, or clause closer to the word it modifies.


To avoid squinting modifiers, carefully construct your sentences to say what you mean, and make it clear which word is being modified.


To avoid such errors as these in your writing,  carefully proofread what you’ve written and write sentences that are well constructed. The more practice, the better you will become at avoiding errors with misplaced and squinting modifiers.


Here are a few more examples. Think about how you could correct them.

1. The bear was near the empty garbage can searching for food.    

     (Was the garbage can searching for food?)

2.  The dog ran into the room wiggling and jumping for joy.

     (Was the room wiggling and jumping for joy?)

3.  He saw her at the meat counter talking to the butcher.

     (Was the meat counter talking to the butcher?)

I hope you found this mini-lesson helpful for your students. You will find more information in my TPT store.

Click here for a free end-of-the-year writing activity your students may find interesting.

You can find practice exercises here if you would like to offer your students more practice correcting misplaced modifiers.

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Saturday, March 16, 2024

Recognizing Sweeping Generalizations

person holding microphone person making speech


Adjectives have three degrees of comparison: 
Positive Degree - When describing one thing. (big tree)
Comparative Degree – When comparing two things.  (bigger tree)
Superlative Degree – When comparing more than two things. (biggest tree)
The superlative degree is created by adding est to some words or adding the word most. * 
For example: healthiest or most healthy
The brown one is the healthiest of the puppies.
The brown one is the most healthy of the puppies.
*Avoid double comparisons by using both est and most at the same time.
Wrong: The brown one is the most healthiest of the puppies.



When using the superlative degree, it is important to avoid creating sweeping generalizations. When you add est or use the word most, it is easy to create a sweeping statement that goes too far in its description.


A sweeping generalization creates a statement that is too broad. 


Here are examples of sweeping generalizations:


Sweeping Generalization: Benjamin Franklin was the most brilliant of all inventors.

Better: Benjamin Franklin was one of the most brilliant of all inventors.


Sweeping Generalization: Joe Montana is the greatest of all quarterbacks in football history.

Better: Joe Montana is one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history.


It's important not to get carried away with the superlative degree and say way more than you intended to say. Use qualifying words such as frequently, most, some, a few, many, sometimes, often, or occasionally to make the superlative degree more acceptable.


Include the word “other” when comparing one thing with a group of which it is a part.


Statement: After WWII, the United States was stronger than any country in the world.

Better: After WWII, the United States was stronger than any other country in the world.


Politicians frequently use sweeping generalizations to appeal to emotions rather than facts. Be sure to examine all political statements for accuracy. 


Here are some examples from various media sources:

·      “All politicians are corrupt.”

·      “Immigrants are taking all our jobs.”

·      “Government is always inefficient.”

·      “All rich people are greedy.”

·      “All members of a certain political party are extremists.”

·      “All millennials are lazy and entitled.”

·      “Conservatives hate progress.”

·      “Liberals are all entitled and can't handle opposing views.”

·      “All corporations are evil.”


Be aware of using sweeping generalizations in your own writing and speech. Also, be an informed reader and listener and take note when a sweeping generalization is used in print or in speeches.


Adjectives and Adverbs can be powerful words. If you want to learn more about them and practice their use, I have several resources in my TPT store. You will find them here.


You will find a free worksheet here that helps students recognize and correct sweeping generalizations. As we enter the volatile climate of this political year, your students will benefit from being able to spot overgeneralizations that can lead to faulty conclusions.  


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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Tips to Avoid Three Common Usage Errors

Tips to Avoid Three Common Usage Errors

How to choose between:
Fewer? or Less? * Who? or Whom? 
* Bad? or Badly?

Fewer? or Less?

If you mean “not as many,” choose fewer

(Use fewer when items can be counted.)

If you mean “not as much,” choose less.


I bought fewer pencils. 

I ate less pudding.

Who (Whoever)? or Whom (Whomever)?

Find the verb nearest the pronoun in question. If the pronoun appears before the verb, choose who or whoever. Who went to the store?

If the pronoun follows an action verb, choose whom or whomever. The leader will choose whomever you wish.

If the pronoun follows a linking verb, choose who or whoever. The winner will be whoever the people elect.

Whom or whomever always follows a preposition.

His friends, most of whom are older, are friendly people. 

Hint: Substitute he or she for the pronoun who. Substitute him, her, or them for the pronoun whom.

Bad? or Badly?

Badly describes an action. He danced badly. 

Bad describes a feeling or emotion. (I feel bad.)

Always use the word “bad” after linking verbs such as lookfeel, seemtaste, and smell

You look bad. 

I feel bad. 

His conduct seems bad to me. 

That meat tastes bad to me.

That perfume smells bad.

Note: Do not say or write I feel badly for you. (Although you hear this in the media and read it in printed material all the time, it is incorrect.)

If you feel badly, there is something wrong with your fingers. 

If you sympathize with someone, you feel bad for them.

It will become much easier to use these words correctly if you practice.

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Sunday, January 21, 2024

Six Confusing Words to Master

Here are 6 confusing words to master when you write. Although they sound very much alike, they have different meanings.

Tess' Tips 6 Confusing Words to Master

Dying – means that a living being is no longer alive. Dying is the present participle of the verb die.
Examples: I am just dying to see your new car. The poor man is dying of a horrible disease.
Dyeing - means to change the color of something by using a dye.
Examples:  Mother is dyeing her hair brown to hide the gray hairs. Jane is dyeing her shoes to match her dress.

Weather – means changes in the atmospheric condition.
Examples: We need to check the weather before we set sail. The weather is warm and dry today.
Whether – is used to indicate possibilities or choices.
Example: He was not sure whether or not to eat the sushi.
Whether - also means if something is or was true.
Example: Will you find out whether or not they want to go with us to the movie?
HINT: When choosing between weather and whether be sure to pronounce the “h” in whether. If you are talking about clouds, rain, etc, choose weather. There is no “h” sound in weather.

Advice – is a noun that means an opinion or suggestion that one gives to another.
Advise – is a verb that means to give an opinion or suggestion.
HINT: Try substituting the word opinion into the sentence. If it makes sense, choose the noun advice.
Example A: I need your (advice, advise) on how long my speech should be.
I need your (opinion) on how long my speech should be.
Since you could substitute the word opinion in this sentence, choose advice.
Example B:  You need to (advice, advise) me on how long my speech should be.
You need to (opinion) me on how long my speech should be.
Since you could not substitute the word opinion in this sentence, choose advise.

Here's a free exercise on the use of more confusing words. Confusing Words Grammar Worksheets.

Here's another exercise your students will enjoy. Confusing Words Task Cards.
This set includes task cards to practice the correct use of die or dye; weather or whether; advice or advise; anxious or eager. TASK CARDS can be more fun than worksheets, and they are a perfect way to reinforce lessons and improve proofreading skills.

Be sure to visit my store for more free lessons and take a look at my Simple Steps to Sentence books. Help your students learn grammar and usage the easy way.

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