“We will oil your sewing machine and adjust tension in your home for $5.”
“Wanted: Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink.”
Notice something a bit off about each of the advertisements above? What makes these sentences so confusing (and so funny) is a common grammar mistake known as a misplaced modifier.
A modifier is any word or sentence clause that changes the meaning of, or adds context to, a noun. If you put it in the wrong place in your sentence, the modifier might change the meaning of the sentence entirely, as in the examples above.
Here are a couple more examples, along with corrected sentences with the modifiers in the right place:
Misplaced Modifier: “Rotting in the refrigerator, Sarah threw away the fruit.”
Corrected: “Sarah threw away the fruit rotting in the refrigerator.” Or “Sarah threw away the fruit that was rotting in the refrigerator.”
Misplaced Modifier: “Clara saw a wild turkey walking home from school.”
Corrected: “Walking home from school, Clara saw a wild turkey.” Or “Clara saw a wild turkey while she was walking home from school.”
Keep an eye on modifiers in your marketing emails, advertisements, and social media posts to make sure you’re always sending the right message!