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Error 8: Dangling Modifiers (dm)

A dangling modifier is a modifier that does not relate sensibly to any word in the sentence. A modifier that begins a sentence must be followed immediately by the word it is meant to describe. Otherwise, the modifier is said to be dangling, and the sentence takes on an unintended meaning.

  • Dangling modifier example: While reading a magazine, my cat sat with me on the porch swing. (Was the cat reading the magazine?)
  • Correct: While I was reading a magazine, my cat sat with me on the porch swing.
  • Correct: While reading a magazine, I sat with my cat on the porch swing.
  • Dangling modifier example: Asked to join the club, we were disappointed by his refusal. (Here, the modifier is asked to join the club which does not modify a noun or pronoun in the sentence.)
  • Correct: Asked to join the club, he disappointed us because he refused.
  • Correct: When he was asked to join the club, we were disappointed that he refused.

Notes on dangling modifiers:

  1. They contain forms of action verbs. Notice in the examples above, one modifier includes the word reading, and the other includes the verb asked. Dangling modifiers almost always include action verbs like these.
  2. Not all dangling modifiers occur at the beginnings of sentences, but many of them do.

Checking for Dangling Modifiers

  1. Find the modifier.
  2. Make sure the modifier has something to modify.
  3. If there is a modifier, make sure it is in the right place (as close as possible to the word or words being modified).
  4. If the modifier has nothing to modify, add or change words so that the modifier has something to modify.

Correcting Dangling Modifiers

Example: While talking on the phone, the doorbell rang.

1. Find the modifier.

  • In this case, the modifier is while talking on the phone.

2. Make sure the modifier has something to modify.

  • In this case, the modifier cannot logically modify the doorbell.

3. Give the modifier something to modify.

  • In this case, it would be appropriate to insert I for the modifier to modify.

Correct: While I was talking on the phone, the doorbell rang.


Exercise

Please print this exercise, mark the correct answers, and check your work against the version with answers.

Exercise on Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Exercise on Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers with Answers

 

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