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Wanted

Dangling Modifiers

 

Suspected Location:

Most often found at the beginning of sentences with the verb having the –ing ending, but can be found anywhere in a sentence! Be careful!

 

Crime:

The dangling modifier, more specifically the verb of the dangling modifier phrase, does not clearly modify the noun to which it is closest in the sentence, or any other noun in the sentence for that matter. In other words, the dangling modifier does not refer to or describe a noun in the rest of the sentence.

 

Last seen in the following forms:

Walking to my car, my tea spilled all over my new suit.

Eating late last night, the plate fell and shattered on the floor.

     Moving out of college, my computer fell and broke.

 

Why the previous examples are grammatically incorrect:

Walking to my car, my tea spilled all over my new suit.

In this sentence “walking to my car” modifies (describes) the tea, but that does not make any sense. Obviously the tea cannot walk to the car, and nowhere in the sentence does the reader find out who did walk to the car. To fix this the writer should state who or what was doing the action; here, this would be who was walking to the car. A corrected version would be:

Walking to my car, I spilled tea all over my new suit.

Now the reader knows that it was “I” who was walking to the car. The phrase at the beginning of the sentence is no longer a dangling modifier because it modifies “I” and that makes sense.

Eating late last night, the plate fell and shattered on the floor.

In this sentence “eating late last night” refers to the plate, but this does not make sense because the plate cannot eat. Again, "the plate" should be replaced by whatever or whoever was actually "eating." A corrected version would be:

Eating late last night, she dropped her plate and it shattered.

Now the reader knows that it was “she” who was eating late last night.

     Moving out of college, my computer fell and broke.

As in the sentences above, the dangling modifier “moving out of college” refers to “my computer.” This, of course, does not make sense because a computer cannot move out of college. A corrected version would be:

Moving out of college, he dropped his computer and it broke.

In this corrected version the phrase at the beginning of the sentence clearly describes “he.” Now the reader knows that “he” was moving out of college. The phrase at the beginning is no longer a dangling modifier.

 

 

So…be on the lookout for those dangling modifiers!! They can be very confusing!

 

Here are some techniques to use to avoid dangling modifiers in your writing:

     Always ask: Is this phrase modifying the noun closest to it?

                 Does this make sense?

                 Can the noun in the rest of the sentence do the action?

Have I said who or what was doing the action?

     Asking these questions should help avoid dangling modifiers!

    

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