PSAT Writing : Correcting Modifier Placement Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Modifier Placement 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, I found the entrance to the park in a matter of minutes.

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

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

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

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 #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.

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

Possible Answers:

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

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

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.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Dangling 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.

Feeling rather disgruntled about the mess, the cat knocked over the Christmas tree and Tom cleaned it up.

Possible Answers:

the cat had knocked over the Christmas tree and Tom had cleaned it up.

Tom cleaned up the Christmas tree that the cat had knocked over.

Tom cleaned up the Christmas tree and the cat knocked it over.

Tom cleaned up the Christmas tree; the cat had knocked it over.

the cat knocked over the Christmas tree and Tom cleaned it up.

Correct answer:

Tom cleaned up the Christmas tree that the cat had knocked over.

Explanation:

In the original sentence, it sounds like the cat feels disgruntled about the mess since "the cat" comes directly after that first phrase. By switching the order and having "Tom" next to that phrase, he is clearly distinguished as the one who is disgruntled. Later in the sentence, "that" is the most concise and logical coordinator.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Modifier Placement 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.

Although best known for novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyermany humorous and satirical short stories were also written by Mark Twain.

Possible Answers:

many humorous and satirical short stories were also written by Mark Twain. 

short stories, many of them humorous and satirical, were also written by Mark Twain.

many humorous and satirical short stories are also written by Mark Twain.

Mark Twain also wrote many humorous and satirical short stories.

many humorous and satirical short stories have also been written by Mark Twain.

Correct answer:

Mark Twain also wrote many humorous and satirical short stories.

Explanation:

When a sentence begins with a dangling participle or descriptive phrase, the person or thing being described must immediately follow the phrase. In the sentence as it is written, it seems as if "many humorous and satirical short stories" are "best known for novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The answer choice "Mark Twain also wrote many humorous and satirical short stories" fixes this issue and makes it clear that the introductory phrase is actually referring to Mark Twain.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Modifier Placement 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.

Although he is famous mainly for his silent films, Charlie Chaplain's career also included many spoken roles.

Possible Answers:

Charlie Chaplain's career has included many spoken roles.

Charlie Chaplain's career also included many spoken roles in which he appeared

Charlie Chaplain's career also included many spoken roles

Charlie Chaplain also appeared in many spoken roles

Charlie Chaplain's career included many spoken roles

Correct answer:

Charlie Chaplain also appeared in many spoken roles

Explanation:

The original text contains a misplaced modifier. The introductory modifying phrase says "Although he is famous mainly for his silent films," so we know that the entity right after that phrase has to be the person who was famous for his silent films. Since "Charlie Chaplain's career" isn't a person, it can't grammatically follow the introductory modifying phrase. 

Only answer choice "Charlie Chaplain also appeared in many spoken roles" correctly places the person, Charlie Chaplain, after the introductory modifying phrase.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Dangling 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.

Coming back to the farm, the gruesome scene was seen by everyone in the car.

Possible Answers:

the gruesome scene being seen by everyone in the car.

everyone in the car saw the gruesome scene.

the gruesome scene was seen by everyone at the car.

the gruesome scene was seen by everyone in the car.

the gruesome scene saw by everyone in the car.

Correct answer:

everyone in the car saw the gruesome scene.

Explanation:

The sentence is written with a dangling modifier, which makes the sentence read as though the "gruesome scene" was what was "coming back to the farm." The sentence needs to be restructured to clarify this problem. The only answer choice that does this is "everyone in the car saw the gruesome scene."

Example Question #1 : Dangling 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.

Waiting for the crucial trial to begin, the anxiety Neil felt was almost overwhelming.

Possible Answers:

the anxiety being felt by Neil was almost overwhelming.

Neil felt almost overwhelmed with anxiety.

the anxiety almost overwhelmed Neil.

the anxiety Neil felt was almost overwhelming.

Neil's anxiety felt almost overwhelming.

Correct answer:

Neil felt almost overwhelmed with anxiety.

Explanation:

When a sentence begins with a dangling participle or descriptive phrase, the person or thing described in that phrase (in this case, "Neil") must immediately follow it. Only one answer choice does this correctly. The answer choice that begins "Neil's anxiety" may appear to do so, but it does not, because the possessive "Neil's" is no longer the subject, but is describing the anxiety.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Dangling 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.

Coming around the corner, the skyscrapers came clearly into view across the river.

Possible Answers:

Coming around the corner, the people got a view of the skyscrapers across the river.

Coming around the corner, the skyscrapers came clearly into view across the river.

Coming around the corner, the skyscrapers come clearly into view across the river.

Comes around the corner, the skyscrapers came clearly into view across the river.

Coming around the corner, the skyscrapers are viewed clearly across the river.

Correct answer:

Coming around the corner, the people got a view of the skyscrapers across the river.

Explanation:

The sentence as written contains a dangling modifier, as the construction of the sentence implies the skyscrapers are what is "coming around the corner." The word order can be changed to make this much more clear. The correct answer is "Coming around the corner, the people got a view of the skyscrapers across the river." 

Example Question #2 : Correcting Dangling 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 repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

Coming upon the hills, the sun began setting behind the travelers.

Possible Answers:

As the sun began setting, travelers coming upon the hills.

Coming upon the hills as the sun began setting begind the travelers.

Coming upon the hills, the sun set behind the travelers.

As the travelers came upon the hill, the sun began setting behind them.

Coming upon the hills, the sun began setting behind the travelers.

Correct answer:

As the travelers came upon the hill, the sun began setting behind them.

Explanation:

The sentence as written contains a dangling modifier, in that "the sun" is not what is "coming upon the hills." The sentence needs to be rewritten to show that the travelers were the ones "coming upon the hills." "As the travelers came upon the hill, the sun began setting behind them," is the correct answer choice.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Dangling 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 repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

Passing by the waterfront, the ducks and geese floated around as spectators strolled.

Possible Answers:

spectators strolled as the ducks and geese floated around.

spectators strolled but the ducks and geese floated around.

the ducks and geese and spectators floated around and strolled.

the ducks and geese were floating around as spectators strolled.

the ducks and geese floated around as spectators strolled.

Correct answer:

spectators strolled as the ducks and geese floated around.

Explanation:

The best answer fixes the dangling participle that starts the sentence (the subject of the main clause should be the one doing the action described in the opening phrase), and uses a logical coordinator.

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