ACT English 5.8 Passage Drill
ACT English: Passage Drill 5, Problem 8. The best placement for the word "strong" would have been where?
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No worries, though; it doesn’t take Sherlock to solve this one.
The rule of thumb is that it’s best to place a modifier as close to the thing it’s modifying
as possible. Failing to do so puts us on the road to confusion.
In this particular sentence, the adjective “strong” is meant to describe the term “dragline threads.”
So the right answer will be the one that places modifier and modified snuggly together.
Option (D) is definitely incorrect because it places “strong” the furthest away from “dragline threads.”
Just listen to the sentence (D)’s way...
“Their webs are complex nets of dragline threads radiating strong out from...”
If we place the adjective “strong” after “radiating,” it makes it sound like the
adjective is trying to modify the way in which the dragline threads are radiating,
instead of the threads themselves.
If we take option (B)’s advice, there’s only more confusion in store.
Check it out....
“Their webs are complex nets strong of dragline threads radiating out from...”
If possible, this choice is even more confusing than the one before. It’s hard to tell what
the adjective is trying to modify here. The preposition “of” maybe?
No doubt this is wrong because adjectives can only modify nouns, pronouns, and other adjectives.
Whatever, we’ll toss this one on the pile before we waste too many brain cells on it.
Remember: whenever possible store brain cells away for when you’ll really need them.
(A) suggests leaving the adjective where it is now, so the sentence would read...
“Their webs are complex nets of dragline strong threads radiating out from...”
This doesn’t work either because in this version “strong” only modifies “threads,”
not “dragline threads.”
And dragline threads do so hate it when they’re not modified.
Choice (C) finally gets it right by placing the modifier before dragline.
The sentence now reads...
“Their webs are complex nets of strong dragline threads radiating out from...”
Placing one-word modifiers, like “strong,” directly before the thing they’re modifying
is usually the best way to avoid confusion.
A concern: Does Confusion ever feel bad that everybody tries to avoid it?
That’s gotta be a blow to the self esteem.