Confusing Modifiers


Does anyone have any suggestion on how to get rid of this error message in the statement?

See example:

Truman Medical Centers School of Nurse Anesthesia in collaboration with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Biological Sciences is embarking on a project to advance the degree awarded to graduates.
asked Mar 20 '12 at 00:45 Jennifer Schwarz New member

1 answer


When you place two modifying phrases in a row-- "on a project" "to advance the degree"-- it becomes unclear what the first phrase is modifying. It is called a squinting modifier because the phrase might be modifying what comes before "embarking" or what come after "to advance the degree". Although not always wrong (when the meaning is clear and cannot be confused, it is okay), it is usually awkward.


As Lewis pointed out a couple weeks past to your previous post, the squinting modifier can be resolved and the awkward "to advance the degree awarded" improved. To be blunt, the current phrase dances around what is happening without really saying it. Why not just say the school is offering a "is offerinng new degree, the doctor of (voodoo), to graduates."


When you try to make one sentence do too many things, you run into this sort of modifier problem. If it is important to communicate the new degree is more advanced than any degree currently offered, consider using two sentences. If it is important to say that it is just now starting the project and degrees will be awarded after the project is complete, consider using two sentences. For instance:


"Truman Medical Centers School of Nurse Anesthesia, in collaboration with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Biological Sciences, will be offering a new degree proagram, the PhD, Nursing Anesthesia, begining Fall 2013. Currently, the school offers degrees in ...."


Sorry to be pushy. I hope this helps.

link comment answered Mar 20 '12 at 01:53 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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