Don’t confuse readers with misplaced modifiers

English is a word-order language, meaning where a word appears in a sentence helps establish the sentence’s meaning for users. Sometimes in a conversation this word order can be broken, as the participants have enough context to understand what was meant. In writing, however, words that appear out of order usually result in confusion or lead to an unintended, humorous line.

A common word order error in writing is a misplaced modifier. This occurs when a word, phrase or clause describing something doesn’t appear next to the word(s) it describes. For example:

Jane kicked the ball donned in a Packers jersey.

This sentence reads as if the ball were wearing a Packers jersey. As Jane was the one wearing the jersey, the modifier donned in a Packers jersey needs to be moved:

Donned in a Packers jersey, Jane kicked the ball.