How to Eliminate Dangling Modifiers from Your Writing

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What is a dangling modifier? Don’t worry; it’s not as gruesome as it sounds. It’s a grammatical error where the modifying word or phrase is attached to the wrong subject or where the subject is missing in a sentence. It’s fairly common and plagues even the best of writers.

There are two common reasons for dangling modifiers.  The first is due to the modifying word or phrase being placed too far from the word or group of words it’s meant to modify. The second happens when the sentence doesn’t include a logical subject to modify. In both situations, dangling modifiers make the meaning of a sentence unclear — confusing the reader.

Distant Modifier

“Taylor was upset with Fred when he returned her damaged car with an air of nonchalance.”

Who had an air of nonchalance? From this sentence, it appears the car did.  Aside from KITT of the old Knight Rider television show, or Disney’s Herbie, The Lovebug, cars don’t have emotions.  “With nonchalance” dangles because it is too far away from the subject the writer intends to modify, which is in this case, Fred.

Missing Subject

“Walking into the room, the smell was overpowering.”

This sentence makes it sound like the smell walked into the room, a physical impossibility. In this case, there is no subject for the participial phrase, “walking into the room,” to modify. Hence, it dangles. Here is another post discussing this type of dangling modifier.

Most cases of dangling modifiers can be fixed by identifying the subject you want to modify, making sure it’s present, and placing the modifier immediately before or after it in the sentence. […]

 

(From The Grammarly Blog, , 20.10. 2014)

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