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SPAG: Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: Other sentence considerations

Tips to improve and correct common errors in academic and formal writing.

Modifier placement

More about modifier placement

Put modifiers as close as possible to the words or phrases they are intended to modify.

Avoid dangling or misplaced modifiers.

Modifiers affect closest noun, pronoun, or phrase. Misplacing modifiers can produce nonsense.


Poor placement: After driving two hours, my cell phone rang. (Cell phones can drive???)
Better placement: After we had been driving for two hours, . . .

Poor placement: There were pictures of Einstein around the room, and pictures of his wife and kids. (Why put up pictures of Einstein's family?)
Better placement: There were pictures of his wife and kids around the room, as well as pictures of Einstein.

Poor placement: A little boy being carried by a nurse in a wheelchair came in my direction. (Is the nurse really the one in a wheelchair?)
Better placement: A little boy in a wheelchair being pushed by a nurse came in my direction.

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Parallel structure

More about parallel structure

Use parallel structure in lists and in series.

Parallel construction means matching the form of verbs, noun, phrases, etc. that are describing the same category.

Parallel construction makes your writing easier for your readers to comprehend.

Parallel construction makes you look smarter and more professional.

Parallel construction is crucial for bulleted lists and in resumes.


Parallel: Noma likes to run, to swim and to ride her bike.
Not parallel: Noma likes running, she swims, and biking is her favorite.

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Subject verb agreement

More about subject verb agreement

Verbs must agree with their subjects.

Verbs must agree with subjects, even if other material, such as prepositional or absolute phrases, has intervened.

And makes a subject plural, or makes a subject singular.


One of the boys was taller than the others.

Phil and Zac are pretty tall.

Julio or Sam is the shortest.

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