SAT Writing : Correcting Modifier Placement Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #77 : 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.

Wishing for a new doll, the birthday candles were blown out enthusiastically by Polly.

Possible Answers:

The birthday candles were blown out by Polly, enthusiastically wishing for a new doll.

Wishing for a new doll, Polly blew out the birthday candles enthusiastically.

Wishing for a new doll, enthusiastically Polly was blowing out the birthday candles.

The birthday candles were blown out enthusiastically by Polly, wishing for a new doll.

Wishing for a new doll, the birthday candles were blown out enthusiastically by Polly.

Correct answer:

Wishing for a new doll, Polly blew out the birthday candles enthusiastically.

Explanation:

The modifier “wishing for a new doll” applies to Polly, so it must appear next to “Polly” in the sentence. “Wishing for a new doll, Polly blew out the birthday candles enthusiastically” is the best choice, since the modifier is in the correct place and the sentence doesn’t rely on the passive voice or awkward phrasing.

Example Question #78 : Modifier Placement Errors

Writing about a family that tours as a freak show, Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love was a finalist for the National Book Award.

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.

Possible Answers:

Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love, which depicts a family that tours as a freak show, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Being written about a family that tours as a freak show, Katherine Dunn, the author of Geek Love, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Writing about a family that tours as a freak show, Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love will be a finalist for the National Book Award.

Having written about a family that tours as a freak show, Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love was a finalist for the National Book Award.

A family that tours as a freak show, Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Correct answer:

Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love, which depicts a family that tours as a freak show, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Explanation:

In the original sentence, the clause "Writing about a family that tours as a freak show" incorrectly modifies "Katherine Dunn's novel." As a novel cannot write itself, the clause is actually meant to modify "Katherine Dunn," the novel's author. All of the incorrect answers maintain this error in some form. "Having written" and "writing" both modify "Katherine Dunn's novel." "A family that travels as a freak show" modifies "Katherine Dunn's novel" as well, when it is meant to refer to the characters in the novel, rather than the novel itself. "Being written about a family that tours as a freak show" modifies "Katherine Dunn," when it should modify "Katherine Dunn's novel." The correct answer, then, must be the sentence, "Katherine Dunn's novel Geek Love, which depicts a family that tours as a freak show, was a finalist for the National Book Award." In this sentence, the clause "which depicts a family that tours as a freak show" correctly modifies "Katherine Dunn's novel."

Example Question #79 : 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.

Unlike the other programmers, who were disillusioned and bored, Nathan's code was made with consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas.

Possible Answers:

Unlike the other programmers, Nathan's code was made with consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas, who were disillusioned and bored.

Unlike the other programmers, Nathan's code was made with consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas, who were disillusioned and bored.

Unlike the other programmers, who were disillusioned and bored, Nathan made code that was consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas.

Unlike the other programmers, Nathan's code, who were disillusioned and bored, was made with consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas.

Unlike the other programmers, who were disillusioned and bored, Nathan's code was made with consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas.

Correct answer:

Unlike the other programmers, who were disillusioned and bored, Nathan made code that was consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas.

Explanation:

The phrase "Unlike the other programmers" is intended to relate to another programmer, Nathan, not "Nathan's code." The current sentence also uses passive voice in stating that "Nathan's code was made." The best answer uses both active voice and correct modifier-word modified agreement: "Unlike the other programmers, who were disillusioned and bored, Nathan made code that was consistently full of inventive and exciting ideas."

Example Question #80 : 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.

Looking at the mannequin, the dress seemed much smaller to me than the salesman claimed it was.

Possible Answers:

Looking at the mannequin, I thought the dress seemed much smaller to me than the salesman claimed it was. 

The dress, looking at the mannequin, seemed much smaller to me than the salesman claimed it was.

Looking at the mannequin, the dress seemed much smaller to me than the salesman claimed it was.

Looking at the mannequin, I thought the dress seemed much smaller than the salesman claimed it was.

The dress seemed much smaller to me than the salesman claimed it was, looking at the mannequin.

Correct answer:

Looking at the mannequin, I thought the dress seemed much smaller than the salesman claimed it was.

Explanation:

“Looking at the mannequin” is a modifier that refers to an action performed by the speaker of the sentence. Because a modifier should always appear as close as possible in the sentence to the thing it modifies, “Looking at the mannequin, I thought the dress seemed much smaller than the salesman claimed it was” is the most correct and concise answer.

Example Question #51 : 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 reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower, I saw my bead collection scattered across the entire room.

Possible Answers:

Cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower, my bead collection was scattered across the entire room, as I saw.

I saw, cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower, my bead collection was scattered across the entire room.

Cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower, I saw my bead collection scattered across the entire room.

Cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower, my bead collection scattering across the entire room.

I saw my bead collection cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower and scattering across the entire room.

Correct answer:

I saw my bead collection cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower and scattering across the entire room.

Explanation:

“Cascading to the floor in a rainbow-colored shower” is a modifier that refers to an action performed by the beads, not the speaker, so the modifier must be placed immediately before or after “my bead collection” in the sentence. Here, the most correct and concise choice is a completely rewritten sentence with clear modifiers.

Example Question #52 : 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 reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence. 

Oozing with four kinds of melty cheese, I relished each bite of my wife's homemade mac and cheese with bacon.

Possible Answers:

I relished, oozing with four kinds of melty cheese, each bite of my wife's homemade bacon mac and cheese.

I relished each bite, oozing with four kinds of melty cheese, of my wife's homemade bacon mac and cheese.

I relished each oozing with four kinds of melty cheese bite of my wife's homemade bacon mac and cheese.

Oozing with four kinds of melty cheese, I relished each bite of my wife's homemade bacon mac and cheese. 

I relished each bite of my wife's homemade bacon mac and cheese, which oozed with four kinds of melty cheese. 

Correct answer:

I relished each bite of my wife's homemade bacon mac and cheese, which oozed with four kinds of melty cheese. 

Explanation:

The phrase "oozing with four kinds of melty cheese" is intended to modify "[the writer's] wife's homemade bacon mac & cheese."; therefore, it should be placed at the end of the sentence to be as close as possible to the noun phrase it is describing. The participle "oozing" could still be easily attributed to either the subject "I" or the "mac and cheese," but changing the phrase "oozing with four kinds of melty cheese" to "which oozed with four kinds of melty cheese" removes the possibility of the phrase referring to the subject "I," making the sentence less ambiguous.

Example Question #51 : 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 reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Invented in China over three centuries ago, explorers and trade merchants alike have used the compass as a navigational tool.

Possible Answers:

Invented in China over three centuries ago, the compass has served as a navigational tool for explorers and trade merchants alike.

Invented in China over three centuries ago, explorers and trade merchants alike use the compass as a navigational tool. 

Invented in China over three centuries ago, both explorers and trade merchants alike have used the compass as a navigational tool. 

Invented in China over three centuries ago, explorers and trade merchants alike have used the compass as a navigational tool. 

Invented in China over three centuries ago, explorers and trade merchants alike used the compass as a navigational tool. 

Correct answer:

Invented in China over three centuries ago, the compass has served as a navigational tool for explorers and trade merchants alike.

Explanation:

The original text contains a misplaced modifier. When we have a modifying phrase at the beginning of a sentence, such as "Invented in China over three centuries ago," we know that the noun that appears right after that phrase must be the thing that the modifying phrase describes. In this case, this means the thing that was invented in China over three centuries ago. 

All of the answer choices except "Invented in China over three centuries ago, the compass has served as a navigational tool for explorers and trade merchants alike" make is sound as though explorers and trade merchants were invented in China over three centuries ago, which is not correct.

Example Question #1291 : Psat Writing Skills

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.

A popular tourist destination, Edward Hooper used Central Park as the subject of many of his paintings.

Possible Answers:

Edward Hooper has used Central Park as the subject of many of his paintings. 

Central Park was the subject of many of Edward Hooper's paintings. 

Edward Hooper used Central Park to be the subject of many of his paintings. 

Edward Hooper used Central Park as the subject of many of his paintings. 

Edward Hooper has used Central Park to be the subject of many of his paintings. 

Correct answer:

Central Park was the subject of many of Edward Hooper's paintings. 

Explanation:

When a sentence begins with an introductory modifying clause, such as "A popular tourist destination," the noun right after that clause must be the entity that the clause describes—in this case, Central Park. Otherwise, an error known as a "dangling modifier" is created and the sentence becomes confusing and ambiguous.

Only the answer choice "Central Park was the subject of many of Edward Hooper's paintings" places the subject "Central Park" immediately after the modifying introductory clause and avoids confusion and ambiguity.

All of the other answer choices make it sound as though Edward Hooper is a popular tourist destination, which is somewhat silly and definitely incorrect.

Example Question #1292 : Psat Writing Skills

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.

Caring for a pet, responsibility is something children can learn.

Possible Answers:

Caring for a pet responsibility is something children can learn.

Caring for a pet, responsibility is something children learn.

Caring for a pet, responsibility is learned by children.

Caring for a pet, responsibility is something children can learn.

Responsibility is something children can learn by caring for a pet.

Correct answer:

Responsibility is something children can learn by caring for a pet.

Explanation:

With the sentence phrased the way it is, the thing that is "caring for a pet" appears to be "responsibility." This dangling modifier needs to be changed to make it clear that "children" are "caring for a pet." The correct answer choice is "Responsibility is something children can learn by caring for a pet."

Example Question #61 : 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 reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Stretching her arm out as far as she could, the shelf was still out of Ramona's reach.

Possible Answers:

reaching the shelf was still an impossible task for Ramona

the shelf was still unreachable to Ramona

Ramona still couldn't reach the shelf

reaching the shelf Ramona still could not

the shelf was still out of Ramona's reach

Correct answer:

Ramona still couldn't reach the shelf

Explanation:

The first part of this sentence, "stretching her arm out as far as she could," necessarily modifies the subject of the sentence. The only possible subject that could do this action of "stretching" is Ramona - therefore Ramona needs to be in subject position. The example sentence thus features a dangling modifier error.

"Stretching her arm out as far as she could" cannot modify a "shelf", so this creates a dangling modifier.

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