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The Essentials of Writing

The Hamilton College Style Sheet

Essentials of English Usage

Misplaced modifier ("mp")

Avoid misplacing modifiers.

A modifier, as you might suspect, is any phrase, adjective, or adverb, that modifies a word.  Misplacing it results in ambiguity of meaning.

1. During this year, a new organization was founded at our college called the Chess Club. Is the college called the chess club? No.
[For clearer rewrite: A new organization, the chess club, was founded at our college this year.]

2. I only saw him yesterday.
[Possibly this sentence expresses what you meant; probably it does not. Consider the differences in meaning of the following sentences

Only I saw him yesterday.
I only saw him yesterday.
I saw only him yesterday.
I saw him only yesterday.
I saw him yesterday only.

and choose the one that best suits your meaning.]

3. He asked me immediately to write the letter.
[Ambiguous. Clearer: He immediately asked me...; or, He asked me to write the letter immediately.]

4. A fine athlete and a good student, her class honored her by electing her president.
[Misplaced appositional phrase; her class was not the fine athlete and good student. Better: Her class honored her, a fine athlete and a good student, by electing her president.]

See also Dangling Elements ("da") in this handbook.

For more information on misplaced modifiers, refer to The Fifth Deadly Sin: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers