Grammar Tips

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What is a misplaced modifier?

Misplaced Modifiers

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is mistakenly separated from the word it is supposed to describe. As a result, the sentence is awkward, confusing, illogical, and sometimes humorous.

A misplaced modifier can be corrected by moving the modifier to a more sensible place in the sentence, usually next to the word it describes.


1. Misplaced: Mary almost read every book in the library. (This means she contemplated reading every book but didn't.)
Correct: Mary read almost every book in the library. (This means she read most, but not all, of the books.)

2. Misplaced: Fred kept a black book of all the girls he had dated in his desk. (This means that Fred dated girls while in his desk.)
Correct: Fred kept in his desk a black book of all the girls he had dated. (This means Fred kept the black book in his desk.)

3. Misplaced: I showed my dog to the veterinarian with the fleas. (This means the veterinarian has fleas.)
Correct: I showed my dog with the fleas to the veterinarian. (This means the dog has fleas.)

4. Misplaced: The fans were told at midnight the concert would begin. (This means the announcement came at midnight. The start time of the concert is ambiguous.)
Correct: The fans were told the concert would begin at midnight. (This means the concert would start at midnight.)

5. Misplaced: Jane only ate bread for dinner. (This means that all Jane did with the bread was eat it; she did not knead the dough or bake it in the oven.)
Correct: Jane ate only bread for dinner. (This means Jane ate bread for dinner and nothing else.)

How can you improve your sentences?

Writing (Communications): Avoid expletives.

If you're old enough to remember Richard Nixon, you may think "expletives" means naughty words. But, in the sentence- structure sense, an expletive is simply a sentence that begins with "There are" or "It is." It is acceptable to use this structure on occasion, but using it too often will signal a lack of strength and creativity on your part.

When should you use the exclamation point?

Writing (Communications): Avoid exclamation points.

Unless you are writing a children's book or cartoon strip, exclamation points should be avoided. They suggest effusiveness, not a prized quality in business writing. The period is the mark you need for almost all the writing you do--especially business writing. Remember, the exclamation point should be reserved for those rare occasions when you needs to express surprise or excitement.

What is a fragment?


A fragment is a group of words posed as a sentence. However, these word groupings cannot stand alone and make sense.

"Tangled in the jewelry box."

When fragments appear next to other sentences in a specific context, they can be difficult to spot.

"That's when I saw the necklace. Tangled in the jewelry box."

The fragment is usually missing either a subject or a verb. In this case, the question would be what is lying in the middle of the floor? We can answer that if the fragment is in context. In this case the answer is the necklace. To fix the fragment, many times you can put the fragment with another sentence or transform it into a sentence.

"That's when I saw the necklace tangled in the jewelry box."


"That's when I saw the necklace. It was tangled in the jewelry box."

Some writers use fragments to emphasize other sentences or certain points. If you choose to do so, always make sure the fragment will be easily understood from the surrounding text so your reader will not be confused.

When should you use I or me or myself when speaking and writing. What are the rules on this?

When to Use "Me," I," and "Myself"

"Myself" should never be used as a substitute for "me" or "I."
"Myself" can be used reflexively and a reflexive pronoun can be used in three situations. 1)When the subject and object of the sentence are the same. Ex. "I love myself." 2)As the object of the preposition referring to the subject. Ex. "I bought dinner for myself." 3)Emphasizing subject. Ex. "I'll do it myself."

Now, on to when you should use "me" and when you should use "I."
Use "me" when you are referring to the object of the sentence (someone who has had something done to them. Ex. "Read a story to Timmy and me." It is incorrect to say, "Read a story to Timmy and I."
Use "I" when you are referring to the subject of the sentence (someone who has done something) Ex. "Jerry and I just bought a new house." It is incorrect to say, "Me and Jerry just bought a new house."

Here's a good guide to use in case you can't remember the rules: Take out one of the pronouns to see if the sentence sounds right. With the first example, if you took out Timmy, does "Read a story to I" sound right? No, but "Read a story to me" does. With the second example, take out Jerry. "Me bought a new house" doesn't sound right, but "I bought a house" does.

What is a compound sentence?

Compound Sentence

A sentence consisting of two or more independent clauses.

Our Denver office is closed, and our Kansas City office is being remodeled.

What is a noun phrase?

Noun Phrase

A phrase that acts as a noun (such as a gerund phrase, infinitive phrase, or prepositional phrase).

I like "running my own business." (Gerund phrase as object.)

"To provide the best service" is our goal. (Infinitive phrase as subject.)

"Before 8" is the best time to call me. (Prepositional phrase as subject.)

What is an independent clause?

Independent Clause

A clause that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence.

What is a common noun?

Common Noun

The name of a class of persons, places, or things.

For example:

What is an indirect object?

Indirect Object

The person or thing indirectly affected by the action of the verb. The indirect object can be made the object of the preposition "to" or "for."

My manager gave (to) me a bonus.

What is a direct object?

Direct Object

The person or thing indirectly affected by the action of the verb.

What is direct address?

Direct Address

When the speaker or writer addresses another person directly. For example:

Thank you for coming, Bob.

What is an appositive?


A noun or a noun phrase that identifies another noun or pronoun that immediately precedes it.

Mr. Johnson, our neighbor, is a nice man.

What is a prefix?


A letter, syllable, or word added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning.


(Hyphens added just to show the prefix. These words should not be hyphenated.)

What is an object?


The person or thing that recieves the action of the verb. An object may be a word, phrase, or clause.

What is an antecedent?


A noun or a noun phrase to which a pronoun refers.

What is an interjection?


A word that shows emotion, that usually doesn't have any grammatical connection to the rest of the sentence.

Wow! What a beautiful sunset.

Oh, that's nothing.

What is a preposition?


A connective that shows the relation of a noun or pronoun to some other word in the sentence.

The members "of the committee" were in agreement.

How do I use "self" pronouns?

Self Pronouns

A common error involves the use of compound personal pronouns that end in "self" or "selves." Use of these pronouns requires a noun or pronoun expressed, to which the compound personal pronoun refers, in the same sentence.

Correct: The report was read at the meeting by me.
NOT: The report was read at the meeting by myself.

Correct: I will read the report myself.

What is an adjective?


A word that answers the question "what kind," "how many," or "which one." An adjective may be a single word, a phrase, or a clause. An adjective modifies the meaning of a noun or a pronoun.

What is a participle?


A word that may stand alone as an adjective or combined with helping verbs to form different tenses.

Present Participle: Ends in "ing"; for example--jumping, reading, playing
Past Participle: Regularly ends in "ed" (looked, walked) but may be irregularly formed (lost, seen, written)
Perfect Participle: "having" plus the past participle (having found, having worked)

What is an article?


Considered an adjective. The "definite" article is "the." The "indefinite" is "a" or "an."

What is a modifier?


A word, phrase, or clause that qualifies, limits, or restricts the meaning of a word.

What is a correlative conjunction?

Correlative Conjunction

Conjunction consisting of two elements used in pairs.
For example:
"both ... and"
"not only ... but also"
"either ... or"
"neither ... nor"

What is a noun?


The name of a person, place, object, idea, quality, or activity.

What is an adverb?


A word that answers the question "when," "where," "why," "in what manner," or "to what extent." An adverb may be a single word, a phrase, or a clause. An adverb modifies the meaning of a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

What is a coordinating conjunction?

Coordinating Conjunction

Connects words, phrases, or clauses of equal rank.
(and, but, or, nor)

What pronouns are singular?

Pronoun Agreement

A pronoun must agree with the word for which the pronoun stands regarding number, gender, and person. This is easily one of the most common grammar errors.

Correct: Each writer can come by my office at his convenience.
Correct: Each writer can come by my office at his or her convenience.
Correct if the group is all female: Each writer can come by my office at her convenience.

NOT: Each writer can come by my office at their convenience.

What is a predicate?


The part of a sentence that tells what the subject does, what is done to the subject, or what state of being the subject is in.

What is a proper noun?

Proper Noun

The official name of a particular person, place, or thing.

For example:

These are always capitalized

What are nonessential elements?

Nonessential Elements

Words, phrases, or clauses that are not necessary to complete the sentence, either in meaning or structure.

What´s an infinitive?


A verb introducted by "to." An infinitive may be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

Noun: To find a good job is a long process. (subject)
She is trying to find a job. (object)

Adjective: I still have two more letters to write. (modifies letters)

Adverb: He went to buy a car. (modifies went)

What is a contraction?


A shortened form of a word or phrase in which an apostrophe indicates the omitted letters or words.

Don't (for "do not")
Can't (for "cannot")

What is a phrase?


A group of two or more words that lack a subject and a predicate; used as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

What is a complex sentence?

Complex Sentence

A sentence with one independent clause and one or more dependent clause.

We will make an exception if circumstances warrant.

What is a dependent clause?

Dependent Clause

A clause that does not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

What pronouns are singular?

Singular Pronouns

The following pronouns are always singular and always take a singular verb:

each one
many a
no one

What is a dangling modifier?

Dangling Modifier

A modifier that is attached either to no word in a sentence or to the wrong word.

What is a conjunction?


A word or phrase that connects words, phrases, or clauses.

What is a gerund?


A verb ending in "ing" and used as a "noun."

Writing is a fun hobby. (subject)
I like writing. (direct object)
I am interested in writing. (object of preposition)

What is a collective noun?

Collective Noun

A noun that representsa group of persons, animals, or things.


What is a compound-complex sentence?

Compound-Complex Sentence

A sentence with two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

I tried to handle the job alone, but when I began to edit the document, I realized that I needed help.

What are the parts of speech?

Parts of Speech

The eight classes into which words are grouped according to their uses.

noun, verb, pronoun, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, interjection

What is a pronoun?


A word used in place of a noun.

Demonstrative: this, that, these, those
Indefinite: each, either, any, anyone, someone, everyone, few, all, etc.
Intensive: myself, herself, etc.
Interrogative: who, why, how, etc.
Personal: I, you, he, she, it, we, they
Relative: who, whose, whom, that, and compounds such as whoever.

What is punctuation?


Marks used to indicate relationships between words, phrases, and clauses.

What is a simple sentence?

Simple Sentence

A sentence consisting of one independent clause.

I have no recollection of the meeting.

What are parenthetical elements?

Parenthetical Elements

Words, phrases, or clauses that are not necessary to the completeness of the structure or meaning of the sentence.

What is an abstract noun?

Abstract Noun

The name of a quality or general idea.


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