What Is a Dangling Modifier? | Examples & How to Eliminate
A modifier describes or qualifies another part of a sentence. A dangling modifier occurs when the intended subject of the modifier is missing from the sentence, and instead another subject appears in its place.
Dangling modifiers often take the form of an introductory phrase that is connected to the wrong thing.
Recognizing dangling modifiers
In a correct sentence, the subject (or doer) that is modified should immediately follow the comma after the modifier. In the example below, the introductory phrase modifies Jane, the subject of the main clause.
When a sentence does not clearly state the subject being modified, the introductory phrase becomes a dangling modifier. Often this error is a result of a main clause written in the passive voice.
In this sentence, the intended target of the modifier, Jane, is missing. Because a car accident appears where the subject should be, the sentence now suggests that a car accident was driving to work. This is an example of how dangling modifiers can result in nonsensical sentences.
How to fix a dangling modifier
There are two simple ways to fix a dangling modifier.
Method 1: Revise the main clause
One method of fixing a dangling modifier is to leave the modifier as it is and rewrite the main clause so that it begins with the subject being modified.
In the example above, the first sentence fails to clarify whose hand was injured – it does not state the subject of the introductory modifier phrase. In the corrected sentence, the subject, John, appears immediately after the modifier phrase.
|Hungry after two hours of hiking, my packed sandwich was quickly devoured upon reaching the peak.||Hungry after two hours of hiking, I quickly devoured my packed sandwich upon reaching the peak.|
|Smiling from ear to ear, the candles are blown out, and the novel concludes happily.||Smiling from ear to ear, the heroine blows out the candles, and the novel concludes happily.|
|To become a practicing dentist, many teeth must be cleaned, filled, and filed.||To become a practicing dentist, you must clean, fill, and file many teeth.|
Method 2: Revise the modifier phrase
Another method of fixing a dangling modifier is to include the subject in the introductory phrase, leaving the main clause as it is.
In the corrected sentence, the dangling modifier is replaced with a complete clause that clearly states the subject who is doing the action.
|While driving to work, a car accident caused a traffic jam on the highway.||While Jane was driving to work, a car accident caused a traffic jam on the highway.|
|Requiring more data for the study, questionnaires were collected from an additional 200 people.||Because we required more data for the study, questionnaires were collected from an additional 200 people.|
|Taken down to the cellar, the darkness obscured the details of the room.||As he was taken down to the cellar, the darkness obscured the details of the room.|
Sources in this article
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