The makers of the SAT love including misplaced modifiers on their exam because most high school students have no idea what they are. Approximately 1/6th of the questions in the SAT Writing section test your knowledge of misplace modifiers. If you don't know what they are and how to deal with them (like most high school students), you're dead in the water.
What is a misplaced modifier? I'm going to give you an example below - the following sentence is completely incorrect grammatically, but because we're used to using misplaced modifiers constantly in our everyday speech, you probably won't notice the problem:
"Flying over the treetops, we were all amazed by the speed of the helicopter."
Sounds pretty good, right? Wrong! This sentence violates perhaps the most commonly tested SAT grammar principle. Here's why it's wrong:
Whenever you have a descriptive clause followed by a comma, the thing being described MUST come directly after the comma.
The sentence above starts with a descriptive clauses followed by a comma:
"Flying over the treetops,..."
So, ask yourself what's being described based on the rest of the sentence. In this case, the answer is "the helicopter." Therefore, the correct version of the sentence would be:
"Flying over the treetops, the helicopter amazed us with its speed."
Remember: Descriptive clause, then comma, then thing being described. There are NO exceptions to this rule.
Following are three examples of sentences that contain misplaced modifiers in italics, followed by two correct versions in regular text:
Yelling out of her window, the children ran back to their mother's house for supper.
Yelling out of her window, the mother called her children back home for supper.
Hearing their mother's yell, the children ran back home for supper.
Trying with all of his might, the weight was still impossible for John to lift.
Trying with all of his might, John could still not lift the weight.
Too heavy for an average an to lift, the weight was just too much for John.
Saddened by the loss of her friend, it seemed that nothing was going right for Sarah.
Saddened by the loss of her friend, Sarah felt that nothing was going right.
Saddened by the loss of her friend, Sarah couldn't believe how terribly things were going.
When you take the SAT Writing section, look for these and fix them. They are EVERYWHERE. I just got