End tables, chairs, modifiers and the modified

Rearranging words in a sentence is like moving around furniture in a room. Drag the end table out of the corner and place it beside a chair and both become more comfortable and useful.

Move adjectives and adverbs beside the words they describe and your sentence becomes so much easier to understand. The more crowded the room or more complex the sentence, the more important this is.

Example:
I only want to write great literature, not romance novels or pulp fiction.
I want to write only great literature, not romance novels or pulp fiction.

Moving “only” beside “great literature” clarifies that you’re describing “great literature” and not the act of writing. Subtle yet significant. “Only” is one of those red-flag words; the “only” end table always works best beside the right chair.

In the heat of writing, descriptive words are sometimes shuffled to the ends of sentences and other lonely places. You need to drag them back. Example:
I see misplaced modifiers, as your English teacher called them, everywhere.
Everywhere I see misplaced modifiers, as your English teacher called them.

Moving modifiers can also allow you to cut down on words. Example:
I’ll go to the store after work, the one with the blueberries on special.
After work I’ll go to the store that has blueberries on special.

Like disorganized furniture, misplaced modifiers are easy to fix. So just think about end tables and chairs next time you write and revise.

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