Fixing Dangling Modifiers: Returning the Sense to Your Sentences

Posted: December 12th, 2013, 6:15 pm   By: brittany.corners

What is a dangling modifier? Before you learn the answer to this question, you must first understand modifiers. Modifiers are usually the main clause or action of sentences and are commonly found at the beginning in the form of introductory clauses or phrases; although, they may appear at the end of sentences. A dangling modifier is created when the doer of the action in the modifier is missing from the sentence.

Example: When writing for Midwest, the style guide is an essential tool.

The modifier is “when writing for Midwest.” The subject, or “doer,” of this sentence is the style guide. This creates a dangling modifier because the style guide does not write for Midwest, but you do.

Identify if you have a dangling modifier by finding the first noun that follows the modifier and determine if it makes sense. There are several ways to correct dangling modifiers, which create confusion in your writing by making sentences mean something unintended.

  1. Combine the clause and doer into one sentence: The style guide is an essential tool when you write for Midwest.
  2. Add the correct doer: When writing for Midwest, you should consider the style guide an essential tool.
  3. Put the doer in the main clause: When you write for Midwest, the style guide is an essential tool.

You should ask these questions to identify and fix dangling modifiers. Does the phrase modify the closest noun? Is the sentence logical? Is the noun in the remainder of the sentence capable of performing the action? Is the doer of the action identified?

Asking these questions helps you locate and correct dangling modifiers. Apply this info to your writing and end those paragraphs where a dog’s bowl spills water, an amplifier wants a bumpin’ car stereo system or rain boots hit the streets in style.