A Misplaced Modifier

Here’s a summary of a police report. Can you spot the misplaced modifier ?

Officers are looking into a burglary in the 1800 block of 16th Street. A property manager told police that sometime between 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday someone broke into a duplex residence he manages by unknown means. The manager said about 70 feet of copper pipe were taken from the basement of the duplex.

Here it is:

...someone broke into a duplex residence he manages by unknown means.

“By unknown means” refers to the break-in. But the sentence sounds as if he manages the property “by unknown means.”

Here’s how the sentence could be rewritten:

A property manager told police that sometime between 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday someone used unknown means to break into a duplex residence he manages. 

Problem solved! (Incidentally, a “modifier” is a description. A “misplaced modifier” is simply a description in the wrong place.)

a break-in

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