Sharpen Your Grammatical Clause
- Friday, December 21, 2012
8. The Air Force pilots were impressed by the waves as they crashed on the rocks.
9. People who use certain medications that smoke frequently run the risk of damaged health.
10. Sandra will have her cat’s tail operated on, but if it doesn’t heal, she’ll have to be put away.
Then, work with your child to rewrite the sentences so that the antecedent is clear. Or simply eliminate the pronoun altogether. For example, the first sentence could be revised as follows:
The Senator watched the lion perform. Afterwards, the lion was fed 25 pounds of raw meat.
Bringing clarity to meaning is always a good goal, and usually there are several grammatical options that will work well.
Misplaced Modifier Rule
Words and phrases that modify other words in a sentence should be placed near the person or thing they are describing, especially when you have a complex sentence. A complex sentence has both a dependent clause and an independent clause. The independent clause, a simple sentence, is separated from the dependent clause by a comma. A good way to verify the correct placement of modifying phrases is to ask yourself, “Is the person or thing being described immediately before the comma the same person or thing being described immediately after the comma?”
The world was amazed by the swimming skills of Olympian Michael Phelps at the most recent summer games. However, twenty years ago another swimmer, David Berkoff, took the world by storm. He was a student at Harvard University and was well known for his backstroking power. He had analyzed the dolphin kick and once revealed in an interview, “It seemed pretty obvious to me that kicking under water seemed to be a lot faster than swimming on the surface.”
If you’re familiar with the laws of physics, you know that turbulence and air on the surface of the water create resistance, which can slow down a swimmer. Berkoff stayed under water as long as he could, especially at the start of a race and after reaching the wall and kicking off for a return lap. Reporters loved his maneuver and named it the “Berkoff Blastoff.”
Berkoff, who won four Olympic medals because of this specialized kick, acknowledged that he probably would not have made the Olympic team without it. He admits that without the kick, he was a good backstroker, but not a great one. By the way, his revolutionary move led to officials imposing a limit of 15 meters for swimming under water.
Here’s how an American sportscaster reported on Berkoff’s race: “Using the Berkoff Blastoff, we see David Berkoff take the lead.” The sentence suggests that “we” (the reporters) are using the Blastoff. And, of course, it’s the swimmer who is using the Blastoff. The modifying phrase is misplaced. The participle just dangles. It would have been much more clear to those who heard the broadcast if the sportscaster had said this: “We see David Berkoff take the lead, using his famous Berkoff Blastoff!”
Underline the correct sentence in each pair.
1. Being correctly typed, the boss appreciated my report.
Being correctly typed, my report was appreciated by my boss.
2. Walking rapidly down the hall, I was startled by a noise.
Walking rapidly down the hall, a noise startled me.
3. Being old and decrepit, I was able to buy the house for a low price.
Being old and decrepit, the house sold for a low price.
4. Tired and depressed, quitting seemed to be the only available option.
Tired and depressed, he decided that quitting was the only option available to him.
5. Confused by the freeway signs, she passed up the exit ramp.
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