A misplaced modifier is a modifier (a word or group of words that describe or limit other words–the most common are adverbs and adjectives) that is not placed near the word or words being modified. In plain English, you should put the modifier next to the term it is modifying. If you don’t, you end up with some fun phrases. I’ve bolded the modifiers.
1. On the way home, I found a gold man’s watch.
2. The kid ate a cold dish of cereal.
3. The torn student’s book lay on the desk.
4. We ate the food that we had brought slowly.
Okay, I think that gets my point across. Each of these sentences would be vastly improved by relocating the modifier closer to the word it needs to modify.
Fixing Misplaced Modifiers
Fixing misplaced modifiers is easy; move the modifier. Generally, you don’t even have to change the construction of the sentence. Just move the modifier.
Finding Misplaced Modifiers
Again, this is generally easy. If you re-read what you write, you will generally just notice that something doesn’t seem to be quite right. Misplaced modifiers often cause ambiguity and confusion, and if you ever end a sentence and think, “huh?” you just might have a misplaced modifier. Carefully read the sentence one more time and make sure your modifiers connect to the right things.
For review, try this site out. It’s got some good information on both dangling and misplaced modifiers: http://aliscot.com/bigdog/dmmm_exercise.htm