Hilariously misplaced modifiers and other blunders

As with common gaffes of usage and punctuation, botched syntax can distort a writer’s intended message—often with humorous consequences.


This article was previously published on PR Daily in April 2016.

How many of you snicker when you see a sign that says something like this:

“Caution heavy pedestrian traffic”

In a previous PR Daily article, I wrote about modifiers and why their location in a sentence is important:

When used correctly, modifiers add interest and depth to your writing. When modifiers are used incorrectly, the reader may not understand the details of the sentence.

A misplaced modifier occurs when a word or phrase is placed too far from the word it describes. Because of this separation, it’s not clear what is being described in the sentence.

They can also cause writers and editors to laugh hysterically.

RELATED: Brush up on your punctuation with this guide.

Below are examples of misplaced modifiers—as well as punctuation omissions and usage gaffes—that make for amusing phrases:

From signs:

1. Caution heavy pedestrian traffic

2. Caution pedestrians slippery when wet

3. Huge kids sale

4. Kids with gas eat free

5. Kids 20% off

6. Don’t let worries kill you. Let the church help

7. Bathroom only for disabled elderly pregnant children

8. To report unsafe conditions at this worksite that endangers workers, please call 311

9. This door is alarmed

10. Tables are for eating customers only

From everywhere else:

11. After eating all their food, we put the dogs outside.

12. I found a huge boulder taking a walk in the woods.

13. We saw cotton growing from our car window.

14. Jack wore a gold man’s watch.

15. Dipped in chocolate, my kids love pretzels.

16. The bank approves loans to people with good credit of any size.

17. Spread by rat fleas, millions of people in medieval Europe were killed by bubonic plague.

18. Tired of cleaning yourself? Let Merry Maids do it.

19. The mayor discussed the high cost of living with several women.

Which are your favorites, PR Daily readers? What others would you add to the list?

A regular contributor to PR Daily, Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.

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