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The use of modifiers in Legal English (2)

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A modifier is a word or group of words that limits or describes another word or words. For example, “Ken did well at law school and was voted the student most likely to succeed.” A dangling modifier¬†is a modifier left without something to modify. In the sentence, “Having listened to her lawyer, her problems were solved,” “having listened to her lawyer” does not modify “her problems” or even “were solved”; in that sense, it dangles. A misplaced modifier¬†is a modifier in the wrong position in the sentence. In the sentence, “Telling a lie sometimes gets you into trouble,” it is not clear whether “sometimes” modifies “telling a lie” or “gets you into trouble.”

A modifier should be placed as close as possible to the word it modifies.

A misplaced modifier appears to modify the wrong word in a sentence. This can distort the meaning of the sentence or make the sentence impossible to understand. To correct a misplaced modifier, move it closer to the word it modifies.

Misplaced modifiers may be single words, phrases or clauses. Examples of words that are often misplaced are almost, just, even, hardly and merely.

Dangling modifiers appear to modify either the wrong word or no word at all because the word it should logically modify is missing from the sentence.

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