On Dangling Modifiers

Hello fellow grammar lovers of the world!

Today, we’re going to talk about dangling modifiers! Yes, yes, I can already see all of you moving towards the edge of your seats, all excited to read about it! Oh! You’re getting up to clap!

I’ll just wait in silence while the standing ovation quiets down…

Thank you very much, my little bundles of joy!

Ok, so before we discuss dangling modifiers, let’s take a refresher course on modifiers.

What is a modifier?

A modifier is an adjective (describes a noun; i.e. the person place or thing in the subject of a sentence) or an adverb (describes a verb; i.e., the action word of a sentence).

For example: The blue bird flew quickly over the garden.

In the sentence above, bird is a noun. What’s describing it? Blue. Therefore, blue is the adjective.

Also in the sentence above, flew is the verb (action word). Quickly describes how the bird flew. (Something that always helped me remember adverbs when I was in school was that most of them end in -ly: quickly, happily, quietly, etc… That’s a way of over simplifying them, so if you’d like to read more on adverbs, click here.)

So what is a dangling modifier?

As explained above, modifiers describe something else. That means that for a sentence to be clear, the modifier should be placed right before or right after the person, place, or thing that it’s describing. I.e. The blue bird flew quickly over the garden. 

An example of a dangling modifier would be to write: Shining brightly over the garden, the blue bird flew quickly in the sun.

That sentence doesn’t make any sense. What was shining brightly over the garden? The bird? No. It was the sun. Therefore, the modifiers “shining brightly” should go before “the sun” for clarity purposes: “The sun shone brightly, while the blue bird flew quickly over the garden.”

Always ask yourself: What is the modifier describing? If it doesn’t flow logically from your sentence, switch the syntax around (that means rewrite the sentence), until it makes sense.

Another example: “Playing around with his red ball, Anna laughed as her puppy ran across the room.”  Who was playing around with his red ball? Anna?

What would make sense is that the puppy was playing around with the red ball. So rewrite the sentence: “Anna laughed as she watched her puppy run across the room, playing around with his red ball.”

This particular issue shows up mostly in writing. So if you’re still in school and are trying to prevent your teacher from getting a heart attack and wonder what she did wrong in her lessons, make sure you don’t use any dangling modifiers in your sentences. Teachers, editors, and fairy godwriters everywhere will appreciate it.

Thank you very much for your attention! You may now carry on with your day!

Much love,

The Fairy Godwriter

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