#EdenLit - Lessons: All About Modifiers

Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Modifiers and How They Get Misplaced

First of all, what the heck is a modifier and how does it always seem to get misplaced? Well, a modifier is an additional phrase, word, or clause that further describes the element that the modifier depends on. In almost every instance the modifier can be removed from the sentence and not completely wreck the sentence. Modifiers allow the writer to take the picture that is in his/her head and paint it using words for the reader. Modifiers are like the life blood of a sentence.
Look at this dull and boring sentence:She reviewed the dildo. Yes, it gets the point across but in a rather dead way. We can liven up the sentence with a few modifiers:She tossed her light brown hair back over her shoulder and reviewed the large, and incredibly life-like, dildo until her skin was flushed and glistening with sweat.Better, no?

Modifiers can be prepositional phrases, participle phrases, adjectives, adjective clauses, adverbs, adverb clauses, absolute phrases, and/or infinitive phrases. The problem with modifiers is where to place them! They can be placed before or after the object or idea being modified. In more complex sentence structures the modifiers can get a little slippery and totally change the meaning of the sentence! For this reason the modifying phrase should be placed as close to what it describes as possible.
A misplaced modifier ends up modifying something that you, the writer, never intended. The results can be odd, confusing or funny as hell!
Consider the following:
*When playing with a large dildo I use only water based lube.
*When playing with a large dildo I only use water based lube.
The two sentences seem to be saying the same thing, right? In reality they are saying two very different things. In the first sentence I use nothing but water based lube- no silicone, no oil based lube, and no saliva. In the second sentence I do nothing but use the water based lube…I don’t research it, and I don’t make it, I only use it!

To avoid the confusion it is best to place the modifier as close to the word being modified as you can and before it if possible!
Continuing our adventures with lube, consider the following two sentences:
*I almost couldn't taste the flavor of the lube.
*I couldn't almost taste the flavor of the lube.
In the first example the flavor was so light, or I had a stuffy nose, and I couldn't taste the flavor of the lube. In the second example I HAD to taste the lube I couldn't “almost” taste it! You can see how quickly trying to dress up a sentence can go wrong.

When using commas with modifiers you have to really be careful lest you completely modify the wrong thing! The results can paint really funny mind pictures.
*Covered in slippery lube, Airen shoved the large dildo into herself happily. Normally, we don’t recommend covering ourselves in lube before using a toy, but perhaps this is a new technique! Whenever you have a modifying phrase the thing being described should follow the comma as closely as possible. Take care when beginning a sentence with an introductory statement.
So to make this sentence make more sense I could say: Airen happily shoved the large dildo, which was covered in slippery lube, into herself. Or I could say: After covering the dildo in slippery lube, Airen happily shoved it inside herself. One would hope Airen would use caution and go slow, but at least the dildo is covered in lube, right?

Along with certain body parts, modifiers can dangle and squint! A dangling modifier is a phrase that implies a subject that is not actually present in the sentence. It forces your reader to guess what you are talking about!
*Stroking herself, the dildo slid in easily. This sentence assumes that you know Airen was stroking herself but in reality because the dildo is the only subject in the sentence, the dildo was stroking AND sliding. I could rectify the situation by saying: After stroking herself for a bit, Airen lubricated naturally and the dildo slid in easily.

Now to make a modifier, and your reader, squint you simply shove the modifier in between two subjects it could modify.
*Women who masturbate rarely are shy This sentence could mean two vastly different things! It could mean that women who masturbate less often are shy or women who masturbate don’t suffer from shyness as often as women who don’t. See? You are now squinting to see if you can uncover the meaning of the sentence.
To fix this sentence you would have to decide what you are really trying to say and then change the sentence to reflect this true meaning.

Honestly, if you simply put down the first draft of any writing and let your mind cool a bit these sorts of odd word placements will become very noticeable when you read the page again. By that time you will, probably, be sure about what you are trying to say.
10/01/2012
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