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Chris Lele

SAT Writing: Misplaced Modifiers

The SAT is a timed test. (“Duh”, you’re probably thinking). The key is not just to get the right answer but also to get it quickly. With Reading Comp that can be somewhat tough, but on the SAT writing section, once you learn the different error types, you will be able to work through problems quickly and efficiently!

See how long it takes you to answer the question (of course try to get it right):


Spanning six decades, a period that encompasses dozens of albums, Bob Dylan continues to be a relevant musician well into the 21st Century.

(A)  Bob Dylan continues to be a relevant musician well into the 21st Century.

(B)  a relevant musician well into the 21st Century, Bob Dylan continues to be.

(C)  Bob Dylan has continued to have become a relevant musician well into the 21st Century.

(D) Bob Dylan’s career as a relevant musician continues well into the 21st Century.

(E)  Bob Dylan has been continuing to be in the 21st Century a relevant musician.



Not that you have to know the name of this question, but it is called improving the sentence. There will be a total of 25 such questions on the test. Spotting the grammatical error quickly will save you plenty of time.

In this question, the error being tested is called a misplaced modifier. You won’t be tested on the name of this error, but you will be tested on your ability to spot it.

So what’s being modified here? The first phrases, “spanning six decades…” isn’t a sentence. We call it a dependent clause because it basically depends on a sentence (which is referred to as an independent clause – it can stand on its own).

The independent clause begins with the subject ‘Bob Dylan.’ But does Bob Dylan describe what was “spanning six decades…”? No, it is Bob Dylan’s career that spanned six decades.

Therefore, Bob Dylan is being incorrectly modified (sorry Bob – in this case, you are misplaced modifier).

Notice, that only answer choice begins with, “Bob Dylan’s career.” Just like that – without having to read through all the awkwardly worded answer choices (which can definitely give you test prep brain freeze) – we have the answer: D.

About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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