understanding of grammar may cause a writer to use a
construction without thinking exactly what a particular
word is supposed to modify. This kind of error is fairly
common in using participles with other adjectives or
with adverbial modifiers, as in the following examples:
Dangling Participle: Returning to the ship, the
package was found on his bunk.
Improved: Returning to the ship, he found the
package on his bunk. (It was he who returned
to the ship, not the package.)
Dangling Participle: Entering the halon-
flooded compartment, the gas overcame him.
Improved: Entering the halon-flooded com-
partment, he was overcome by the gas.
Dangling Participle: Running rapidly out from
the windlass, he caught his foot in the anchor
Improved: He caught his foot in the anchor
chain, as it ran rapidly out from the windlass.
Misplaced Prepositional Phrase: At the age of
two his father died.
Improved: He was two years old when his
Misplaced Prepositional Phrase: Baker saw
the driver of the car that had hit him in the
Improved: In the theater, Baker saw the driver
of the car that had hit him.
Misplaced Relative Clause: The chief mess
management specialist discovered that old
baking powder had been used in the biscuits,
which caused all the trouble.
Improved: The chief mess management
specialist discovered that the trouble with the
biscuits was the use of old baking powder.
A frequently misplaced word is only. By moving
this one word around in a sentence, you can change the
meaning entirely. Study the following example:
Correlative conjucntions, (such as not only but
also and either or) are often misplaced. Their correct
both and, neither nor and whether or.
Only he could read the strange dialect.
(Nobody else could.)
He could only read the strange dialect.
(He could not write or speak it.)
He could read only the strange dialect.
(He could read nothing else.)
He could read the only strange dialect.
(Only one dialect was strange, and he could read
position is just ahead of the words or groups of words
they connect. Consider the following examples:
Misplaced: The Navy letter form not only
omits the salutation but also the complimentary
close. (The words that should be connected are
salutation and complimentary close:)
Correct: The Navy letter form omits not only
the salutation but also the complimentary
Misplaced: Either secure lines to the arresting
hook or the hoisting sling. (As this sentence
stands, the words that should be connected are
arresting hook and hoisting sling. The
sentence will be better, however, if two
complete prepositional phrases are used
Correct: Secure lines either to the arresting
hook or to the hoisting sling.
Other frequently used correlative conjunctions are
Splitting an infinitive means placing one or more
modifiers between the to and the verb form. You will
hear people say that a split infinitive is no longer
regarded as incorrect, but that is only a partial truth.
Some writers consider that splitting an infinitive is
desirable at times for the sake of emphasis; for example,
To deliberately disobey an order is a serious offense.
Even this sentence will grate on some ears, and
generally, it is better for you to keep the adverb outside
the infinitive construction. That is especially true when
you have more than one adverb or a phrase.
Awkward Split: The only way for a person to
win against afire is to regularly and thoroughly
practice the rules of fire prevention.