A working definition for the word “modify” is to change or to alter something. This definition is the same when considering the purpose of modifiers within a sentence. A modifier changes, clarifies, qualifies or limits a particular word in a sentence in order to intensify its presence within a body of work.
The great southern American writer, William Faulkner, is notorious for writing with multiple layers of modifiers in order to engage his audience. Consider the following passage from his novel The Sound and Fury:
“He said time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life” (p 85).
Like most writing techniques, modifiers can be brilliant when used correctly and effectively. On the other hand, if a modifier is used incorrectly the meaning of the sentence can become blurred or distorted.
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