A modifier is either an adjective or an adverb. If there is no object for it to modify, it is said to be “dangling” or “misplaced.”
A dangling modifier usually has a word or phrase that modifies nothing in particular in the rest of the sentence, or often seems to modify something that is implied but not actually present in the sentence.
Example: Having looked everywhere for my LEGO, the brick I wanted couldn’t be found.
Misplaced modifiers usually fall in the wrong place in a sentence; it may be awkward, confusing, or unintentionally funny. Misplaced modifiers also include longer adverbs that disrupt the flow of the sentence and limiting adverbs (almost, even, exactly, nearly, only, etc.)
An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or pronoun. An adjective describes the noun or pronoun that follows it.
There are several kinds of adjectives:
Created by Cindy Montgomery
An adverb is a word that modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs within a sentence. Sometimes adverbs modify a clause or an entire sentence. The most frequently recognized adverbs end in -ly. Adverbs often describe a verb by telling how, how much, how often, when, or where the verb is done.
Adverbs most commonly modify verbs. They describe the action of the verb.
- Example: He ran quickly.
The adverb quickly modifies the verb ran. It describes how he ran.
Adverbs may also modify adjectives.
- Example: This sandwich tastes very good.
The adverb very modifies the adjective good.
Adverbs can even modify other adverbs.
- Example: She worked quite hard on her assignment.
The adverb quite modifies the adverb hard.
Conjunctive adverbs connect sentences or clauses by adding, comparing, or contrasting elements within the sentences. They may signal the result of what a previous signal offered, or may insert a reference of time in the sentences. Common conjunctive adverbs are furthermore, moreover, however, nonetheless, similarly, therefore, thus, and meanwhile.
- I have found that results in this experiment support my hypothesis. However, the subjects have not responded in the manner that I had expected.
- You did not complete the project assigned for today. Therefore, your grade will be affected.
Created by Cindy Montgomery
Adjectives and adverbs have comparative and superlative forms. The comparative form is used to compare two things. The superlative form is used to compare more than two things. Most adjectives and adverbs use an -er ending in the comparative form and an -est ending in the superlative form.
When using a comparative or superlative form of an adjective or an adverb, it is very important to complete the comparison made in the sentence. For example, do not write: My pie tastes better. Instead, write: My pie tastes better than yours. By completing the comparison you have shown the reader that you are comparing, rather than just explaining, what one is more or less.
- Example: Pretty (adjective), prettier (comparative), prettiest (superlative)
- Example: Good (adjective), better (comparative), best (superlative)
Another form incorporates the use of more/most or less/least before the adjective or adverb.
- Example: Creative (adjective), more creative (comparative), most creative (superlative)
- I ran hard today.
Hard is the adverb which modifies ran
- I ran harder today than I did yesterday.
Hard is in the form of a comparative adverb. It is comparing two ideas. How hard I ran today is compared with how hard I ran yesterday.
- Of all the days I have run this week I ran hardest on Wednesday.
Hardest is in the form of a superlative adverb. It is comparing more than two ideas. How hard I ran on each day of the week is being compared.
Created by Cindy Montgomery
Ericka’s Page of Comma Exercises
Now that you are familiar with some of the different uses of the comma, here are some exercises for further practice. To use these exercises, print the page and use as a worksheet. In each exercise, place a comma wherever necessary.
Rule: If listing two or more objects, a comma is needed between each object or idea.
- I did my homework ate my dinner washed my car and went to Walmart after class.
- The tutors went to dinner and a movie.
- Megan went to the store to buy shampoo conditioner nail polish lipstick and gum.
Coordinating Conjunctions (and, but or, nor, so, for, yet)
Rule: When one of these words is used to link independent clauses (a phrase that can stand on its own as a sentence) a comma is needed before the conjunction.
- I was supposed to go to work this morning but I was sick.
- Ms. Eason forgot to grade our tests today so we will not know our test grade until Monday.
- Bob cannot speak or write clearly.
Introductory Word Groups
Rule: When a sentence begins with a dependent clause ( a phrase that depends on an independent clause to make sense), such as a prepositional phrase (using words such as “before”, “after”, “from”, and “because of”), then a comma is needed after the phrase. If the phrase appears at the end of the sentence, a comma is not needed.
- After seminar is over Ellen goes to the cafeteria to eat dinner with her friends.
- Ellen goes to eat dinner with her friends after seminar is over.
- Before midnight Cinderella must leave the ball.
Rule: If the descriptive phrase (a dependent clause which acts like an adjective or adverb) merely describes without placing limitations on the object it is describing, then a comma is needed. If the descriptive phrase restricts, limits, modifies, or clarifies the meaning of the words or ideas it is describing, and is essential to getting the meaning across to the reader, a comma is not needed.
- I am practicing this tutorial which will help me to understand comma usage.
- This tutorial which has wonderful practice exercises will help me to understand comma usage.
- I am enjoying this tutorial unlike my roommate who dislikes extra work.
Quotations (He said, She said)
Rule: If anybody says something that needs to be quoted at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence, commas are needed. The comma goes inside the quotation mark if the sentence will continue past the quotation. The comma comma goes before the quotation mark if the quote follows the beginning of the sentence. No comma is needed if the quotation ends with a question mark or exclamation point, even if the sentence will continue after the quote.
- “I have to complete this tutorial ” Mike said “to get a better understanding of comma usage.”
- “Can I do the tutorial with you?” Randy asked.
Rule: If you are using more than two adjectives, commas may be needed to separate them. If the words can be shifted in order and still make sense or be separated by the word “and”, then a comma is needed between the adjectives. If the adjectives only make sense if used in a certain order, or they cannot be separated the word “and”, then no comma is needed.
- Three bright red elephant pins were given to Ericka.
- Some elegant decorative sophisticated elephant pins were given to Ericka.
- Some decorative sophisticated elegant elephant pins were given to Ericka.
Rule: If the sentence is addressing the reader directly, then a comma may be needed to separate a question, command, or statement addressed to the reader.
- I love going to the writing center don’t you?
- Yes the tutors are extremely helpful.
Numbers and Addresses
Rule: Commas are used when entire dates are given, before and after the year, and to separate streets, towns, and states in addresses.
- Ericka became Greek on December 7 1997 at a local church.
- University of Lynchburg is located at 1501 Lakeside Drive Lynchburg Virginia 24501.
Created by Ericka Eason
Reference: Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1992).
This page is to be used with Eight Areas of Comma Etiquette.
Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
According to Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell in the sixth edition of Writing First:
Modifiers can include the present participle of a verb (-ing) or the past participle of a verb (-ed).A common mistake when using modifiers is misplacing them, which in turn modifies or describes the wrong word or word group.
Misplaced Modifier Examples
- Incorrect: Crying on the examination table, the doctor gave the small child his vaccine.
This is incorrect because it implies that the doctor was crying on the examination table, when it was the child who was crying.
Correct: The doctor gave the small child crying on the examination table his vaccine.
The modifier “now” correctly describes the child as crying, not the doctor.
- Incorrect: Lydia fed the pigs wearing her raincoat.
Correct: Wearing her raincoat, Lydia fed the pigs.
- Incorrect: Dressed in a flowing gown, everyone watched the celebrity enter the room.
Correct: Everyone watched the celebrity, dressed in a flowing gown, enter the room.
Another common mistake when using modifiers is having a dangling modifier. This occurs when the word that is being modified is not actually included in the sentence.
Dangling Modifier Examples
- Incorrect: Using the Pythagorean Theorem, the math problem was easily solved.
Did the math problem use the theorem? Who did?
Correct: Using the Pythagorean Theorem, Wendy easily solved the math problem.
This version is correct because Wendy was the one who used the theorem.
- Incorrect: Working through the night, the report was finished in time for class.
Correct: Working through the night, Jeremy finished the report in time for class.
- Incorrect: Having finished the essay, a new Facebook status was uploaded.
Correct: Having finished the essay, Sandra uploaded a new Facebook status.
A special thanks to Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell’s Writing First, published by Bedford/St. Martin’s in 2015.