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The Writer’s Reference Book


Module 12 – Frequent Grammatical Errors – Hint Sheet

Dangling Participles – When a sentence starts with a participle (usually an -ing word), the participle must modify the subject of the sentence. If it does not, it is said to be dangling at the end of the sentence with nothing to modify.

  • Wrong: Looking to the left, the mountains rose majestically. (The mountains aren’t doing the looking.)
  • Right: Looking to her left, Jill saw the mountains rising majestically. (Jill is doing the looking.)

Misplaced Modifiers – Modifiers must be close to the words they modify.

  • Wrong: I gave the dog a bone that was lost. (The bone wasn’t lost.)
  • Right: I gave a bone to the dog that was lost. (The dog was lost.)

Squinting Modifiers – It must be clear what word the modifier is modifying. If a modifier could modify two different words, it is used incorrectly.

  • Wrong: The customers who came often won. (Did the customers come often or win often?)
  • Right: The customers who came often were likely to win.
  • Right: The customers who came to the sales often won.

Parallel Structure – Parts of the sentence that function in the same way should be parallel; that is, they should have the same grammatical structure.

  • Wrong: We were alone, afraid, and were not sure where we were. (Adjective, adjective, and subordinate clause)
  • Right: We were alone, afraid, and lost. (Adjective, adjective, and adjective)


  • Be sure to compare two things that are alike.
    • Wrong: My ring is more expensive than Ruth. (How expensive is Ruth? She’s not the same thing as a ring.)
    • Right: My ring is more expensive than Ruth’s. (Correctly compares my ring to Ruth’s ring. Ring is understood.)
  • Make logical comparisons. Use -er with other and -est with all.
    • Wrong: I am the tallest of the other girls in my class. (If I am only talking about the other girls, I can’t be the tallest because I’m not even included in that group.)
    • Right: I am the tallest of all the girls in my class.
    • Right: I am taller than any other girl in my class.
  • Don’t forget the AS in compound comparisons.
    • Wrong: My dog is as cute if not cuter than yours.
    • Right: My dog is as cute AS if not cuter than yours.
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