What the Heck Is a Dangling Modifier?

 A dangling what, you ask? And yes, you read the title correctly. Dangling modifiers are a common but difficult-to-spot grammar issue that are, fortunately, easy to fix.

Let’s dive into some examples that illustrate this concept:

Featured Image -- 2014

Looking toward the south, an ominous cloud stirred up dust.

The subject of the sentence is ominous cloud. The introductory clause tells us that the cloud–which must have eyes–is looking south. This sounds pretty illogical to me, so let’s fix it:

 Looking toward the south, Mamie saw an ominous cloud stirring up dust.

All we had to do was make it clear that Mamie is the subject, not the ominous cloud.

 Or, if you want the subject to remain ominous cloud: In the south, an ominous cloud stirred up dust.

See? Easy as strawberry-rhubarb pie. Here’s another example:

 After separating the students into groups, Sample A was tested.

 This sentence says that Sample A—the implied subject—separated students into groups. That just doesn’t sound right. I’m guessing the writer meant something more along these lines:

 After separating the students into groups, the researcher tested Sample A.

 Now, the researcher is doing the action, not Sample A. Starting to get the hang of it? One more before I send you off:

 It’s the weekend; relieved of all duties at the office, your home should be a place to relax.

 Yes, you guessed it: your home, the sentence’s subject, doesn’t have duties and probably doesn’t work in an office. How about we change it to the following?

It’s the weekend; relieved of all duties at the office, you should be able to relax at home.

 Now, hopefully, you understand what a dangling modifier is. Email me with any dangling—I mean lingering—questions you might have. Oh, and study up for a quiz on this topic in my next blog post.

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3 thoughts on “What the Heck Is a Dangling Modifier?

  1. My English teacher would slap us with a ruler for even minor grammatical mistakes. I believe it wouldn’t just be the modifiers dangling if I’d ever made that gross a mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! That’s one way to do it. While I’d never advocate corporal punishment, I know way too many adults who were never taught grammar. Actually, I was one of them–didn’t learn it until I became an adult.

      Liked by 1 person

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