Sunday, April 19, 2015

Words Need to Find Their Place, Part 3

The previous WORDS ON THE LINE post showed how and why misplaced modifiers appear in sentence beginnings. In this post, I'll explain how and why they show up in the middle of sentences. Here is our sample: 
The manager told me frequently to break.
The problematic modifier is frequently because this adverb is trapped between two verbs, told and to break, either of which it can modify. Did the manager tell me frequently to take a break once, or did he tell me once to take a break more than once? The fix is to get the adverb as far away as possible from the verb it does not modify. Depending on what the writer intended, either of these sentences would be clearer:
  • The manager frequently told me to break.
  • The manager told me to break frequently.