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Hollenback Misplaced Modifiers and Parallel Structure

How to identify and fix misplaced modifiers and sentences that are not parallel.
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Max Hollenback

on 14 June 2012

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Transcript of Hollenback Misplaced Modifiers and Parallel Structure

misplaced modifiers PARALLEL
STRUCTURE Items in a series must have parallel structure. Max , , and . Pang , , and . Max ate pizza, drank water, and wiped his mouth. ate = past tense verb; drank = past tense verb; wiped = past tense verb Non-parallel structure Max , , and . pang , , and . Max ate pizza, drank water, and wiping his mouth with contentment. ate = past tense verb; drank = past tense verb; wiping = present participle Modifiers are just what they sound like—
words or phrases that modify something else. What is a
modifier? Misplaced modifiers modify something you didn't intend them to change. Limiting modifiers are commonly misplaced:
only, even, almost, nearly, hardly, merely,
scarcely, simply, and just. I ate only the vegetables. I only ate the vegetables. the fix It's easiest to get modifiers right when you keep them as close as possible to the thing they are modifying. When you're working with one-word modifiers, for example, they usually go right before the word they modify. I almost failed every art class I took. I failed almost every art class I took. Note again that the modifier, almost, acts on what directly follows it—"almost failed" vs "almost every class." In either case, I'm probably not going to make a living as a painter, but these two sentences mean different things. How to use modifiers
with commas A similar rule applies when you have a short phrase at the beginning of a sentence:
A phrase with a comma modifies whatever immediately follows the comma. Which makes sense? Rolling down the hill, Dave was frightened that the rocks would threaten the campsite. Rolling down the hill, the rocks threatened the campsite and frightened Dave. or A dangling modifier describes something that isn't even in your sentence. Usually you are implying the subject and taking for granted that your reader will know what you mean. dangling
modifier The students were on the mountain.
Hiking the trail, the squirrels squeaked loudly. The squirrels are hiking the trail because
they are the only subject present in the second sentence. the fix Add the intended subject after the comma. Hiking the trail, (the students) heard the squirrels squeak loudly. squinting
modifier A squinting modifier is a modifier between two things that it could reasonably modify, meaning the reader has no idea which one to choose. Children who laugh rarely are shy. As written, this sentence could mean two different things: children who don't laugh often are shy, or children who laugh are rarely shy. Try reworking the sentence so the modifier only describes one word. the fix C Is it parallel? Words, phrases, and clauses need to match. The British Museum is a wonderful place to see ancient Egyptian art, you can explore African artifacts, and find beautiful textiles from around the world. The British Museum is a wonderful place where you can find ancient Egyptian art, explore African artifacts, and discover beautiful textiles from around the world. Notice that each phrase has a verb and a direct object. Parallelism is necessary when a series of words, thoughts, or ideas appears in one sentence. vs Proofreading * Skim your paper, pausing at the words "and" and "or." Check on each side of these words to see whether the items joined are parallel. If not, make them parallel.

* If you have several items in a list, put them in a column to see if they are parallel.

* Listen to the sound of the items in a list or the items being compared. Do you hear the same kinds of sounds? For example, is there a series of "-ing" words beginning each item? Or do your hear a rhythm being repeated? If something is breaking that rhythm or repetition of sound, check to see if it needs to be made parallel. Modifier
rules Place verb + ing right before or after the word it describes.


Place a past tense verb right before or after the word it describes.


Place an adjective clause right after the word it describes. An adjective clause begins with words like that, which, or who.


Avoid the passive voice. "form of be + past tense + by" What rolled down the hill? Dave or the rocks? The students ate sundaes dripping with chocolate.


Angered by the score, Max shook his fist.



I bought a phone that is expensive.


BAD! Typing furiously, the essay was finished by Max at 3 am.
GOOD! Typing furiously, Max finished the essay at 3 am. QUIZ TIME! #1 #2 c B A #3 #4 #8 #7 #6 #5 #9 #10 a b b c B a c Parallelism #1 #2 Quiz Time #4 #3 #6 #5 #8 #7 #10 #9 B a c a a b c d b b Standard English Ain't “Ain’t” has a long and vital history as a substitute for “isn’t,” “aren’t” and so on. It was originally formed from a contraction of “am not” and is still commonly used in that sense. Even though it has been universally condemned as the classic “mistake” in English, everyone uses it occasionally as part of a joking phrase or to convey a down-to-earth quality. was / were In phrases beginning with “there” many people overlook the need to choose a plural or singular form of the verb “to be” depending on what follows. ”There were several good-looking guys at the party” [plural]. “There was one of them who asked for my phone number” [singular]. Good/well You do something well, but a thing is good. The exception is verbs of sensation in phrases such as “the pie smells good,” or “I feel good.” Saying “the pie smells well” would imply that the pastry in question had a nose. Similarly, “I feel well” is also acceptable, especially when discussing health; but it is not the only correct usage. The correct adverbial form is “really” rather than “real”; but even that form is generally confined to casual speech, as in “When you complimented me on my speech I felt really great!” real/really Them/those One use of “them” for “those” has become a standard catch phrase: “how do you like them apples?” being that/
because Using “being that” to mean “because” is nonstandard, as in “Being that the bank robber was fairly experienced, it was surprising that he showed the teller his ID card when she asked for it.” “Being as how” is even worse. If “because” or “since” are too simple for your taste, you could use “given that” or “in that” instead. The correct form of this phrase has become so rare in the popular press that many readers have probably never noticed that it is actually two words. But if you want to avoid irritating traditionalists you’d better tell them that you feel “all right” rather than “alright.” Alright/
all right this here/
that there The expressions “this here” and “that there” immediately before a noun are nonstandard. In standard English it’s not “this here dog” or “that there cat,” but “this dog” and “that cat.” Less casual is “this dog here” when you are emphasizing the exact item you are indicating as contrasted with others.


Of course “this here” and “that there” have standard uses when they are not followed by a noun: “put that there,” “I left this here on purpose,” “I’ll say this here and now,” “there’s a space for this here.” myself/me/i The notion that there is something wrong with “me” leads people to overcorrect and avoid it where it is perfectly appropriate. People will say “The document had to be signed by both Susan and I” when the correct statement would be, “The document had to be signed by both Susan and me.”


All this confusion can easily be avoided if you just remove the second party from the sentences where you feel tempted to use “myself” as an object or feel nervous about “me.” You wouldn’t say, “The teacher sent money to I,” so you shouldn’t say “The teacher sent money to my friend and I” either.

Trying even harder to avoid the lowly “me,” many people will substitute “myself,” as in “the teacher sent candy to my friend and myself.” People often object to this sort of use of “myself” when “me” or “I” would do. It’s usually appropriate to use “myself” when you have used “I” earlier in the same sentence: “I am not particularly fond of goat cheese myself.”

"Myself" and "yourself" are correct in only two situations:

1. To emphasise or contrast: "Paul knows everyone, but I myself am new here." "Your sister has blue eyes, but you yourself have brown eyes."

2. When you're doing something to yourself: "I ask myself..." "You set high standards for yourself." its/it's "Its" and "it's" belong to two different families.
One family has apostrophes:
He's, She's, It's.

The other family has no apostrophes:
His, Her, Its.

To check whether you need an apostrophe, run through the family tree.

He's fine. She's fine. It's fine. (Apostrophe required.)
His hat. Her hat. Its hat. (No apostrophe required.) singular When we use words like "each", "every", "everybody","nobody" or "anybody", we're thinking about a number of people or things. But all those words are grammatically singular: they refer to just one person or thing at a time.

And unfortunately, if you change the verb to correct the grammar, you create a pedantic phrase like "he or she" or "his or her".

"Neither" and "either" present a similar problem.

WRONG Neither of my shirts were clean.
RIGHT BUT TRICKY Neither of my shirts was clean.
RIGHT Both my shirts were dirty. Where you place limiting modifiers
can change the meaning! What is being modified? SQUEAK ? THE FIX
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