PSAT Writing : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Walking briskly, I found the entrance to the park in a matter of minutes.

Possible Answers:

Walking briskly, the entrance to the park was found in a matter of minutes.

Walking briskly, I found the entrance to the park in a matter of minutes.

Walking briskly, I, in a matter of minutes, the entrance to the park was found.

The park entrance, walking briskly, in a matter of minutes was found by me.

In a matter of minutes, me walking briskly, I found the entrance to the park.

Correct answer:

Walking briskly, I found the entrance to the park in a matter of minutes.

Explanation:

In this sentence, the modifying phrase "walking briskly" correctly modifies the subject of the sentence, "I." The modifier in this sentence is clear, and there are no other errors, so the sentence is correct as written. The sentence correctly chooses the use of active voice, as opposed to passive voice, which would be awkward in this situation.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Ambiguous Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Happily singing, the cows were overseen by a team of carefree ranch hands.

Possible Answers:

Happily singing, a team of carefree ranch hands oversaw the cows.

Happily singing; the cows were overseen by a team of carefree ranch hands.

A team of carefree ranch hands happily, who were overseeing the cows, were singing.

The cows, happily singing, were overseen by a team of carefree ranch hands.

The cows, overseen by a team of carefree ranch hands, which were happily singing.

Correct answer:

Happily singing, a team of carefree ranch hands oversaw the cows.

Explanation:

The modifying phrase "happily singing" logically refers to the team of carefree ranch hands (cows, as a species, are not known for their musicality), but as the sentence is originally written that phrase modifies "cows." In order to fix the error, the sentence can be phrased in an active voice, making the subject of the sentence the team of ranch hands, which is both the more melodious and grammatically correct option.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: