Common Mistakes and Dangling Modifiers

May 22, 2021

Mistake 1: Double Comparisons

You can not combine the suffix er or est and the word more or most. You can only use one at a time.

The giant was more bigger than the knight. (incorrect)
The giant was bigger than the knight. (correct)

Mistake 2: Double Negatives

You know from math class that a negative plus a negative equals a positive. The same holds true in English. If you use two negatives together, the meaning is actually the opposite.

I did not bring no cookies. (That means you must have brought some cookies. I did not bring any cookies or I did bring no cookies would be correct.)

Common Negative Words
barelyhardlyneithernever
nonobodynoneno one
notnothingnowherescarcely

Mistake 3: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Definition: A modifier that seems to modify the wrong word is a misplaced modifier.

The most often misused adverbs are only and just. Others often misused include almostevenhardlymerely, and nearly. The adverb should go in front of the word it modifies.

only want a new laptop for my birthday. (The only thing I want in the world is a laptop for my birthday. I don’t want anything else for any other reason.)
I want only a new laptop for my birthday. (The only thing I want for my birthday is a new laptop. I do want other things, but not for my birthday.)

Your mother just had enough eggs. (The only thing she had was enough eggs.)
Your mother had just enough eggs. (She had enough eggs and no extra eggs.)

Your prank almost was scary. (It probably didn’t work at all.)
Your prank was almost scary. (It was close to scary.)

All those cookies are not peanut free. (All of the cookies have peanuts.)
Not all those cookies are peanut free. (Some are peanut free; some are not.)

Mistake 4: Redundant Modifiers

Be careful not to use adjectives when the trait is part of the noun.

A wet rain followed the cold snow. (Isn’t all rain wet and all snow cold?)
The tall giant helped the short dwarf. (Aren’t giants by definition tall and dwarves short?)

Mistake 5: Illogical Comparisons

When comparing with adjectives and adverbs, make sure your sentence has all the words needed to be clear. You may understand what you are writing about, but if you leave out words, your meaning might be confusing.

The students at our school are smarter than Gemini Middle School. (Is it possible for students to be smarter than a school?)
The students at our school are smarter than those at Gemini Middle School. (That makes much more sense.)

A Chihuahua’s teeth are smaller than German shepherds. (Of course they are. The teeth are tiny. The whole German shepherd is giant. Perhaps the writer meant A Chihuahua’s teeth are smaller than a German shepherd’s teeth.)

That house is taller than any house in the neighborhood. (The house itself is in the neighborhood, so how can it be taller than itself?
That house is taller than any other house in the neighborhood.


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