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Tutorial for Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
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What are they?

A modifier is a word or group of words that describes, changes, qualifies, or limits the meaning of another word or group of words in a sentence.

The contestant smiled delightedly.

(The adverb delightedly modifies the verb smiled.)

Modifiers that are carefully placed in sentences give your readers a clear picture of the details you want to convey. However, when a sentence contains a misplaced modifier, it is hard for the reader to tell which word or group of words the modifier is supposed to be describing.

The press reacted to the story leaked from the Pentagon with horror.

(The adverb phrase with horror appears to be modifying the verb phrase leaked from the Pentagon, so the sentence is confusing.)

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that does not modify or refer to anything in a sentence. Instead, it seems to modify something that has been left out of the sentence. A dangling modifier can make the meaning of a sentence unclear, inaccurate, or even comical.

Laying an average of ten eggs a day, the neighboring farmer is proud of his henhouse.

(The modifying phrase laying an average of ten eggs a day appears to modify the neighboring farmer.)

How to find them.

Modifiers should be placed close to the words they describe. If they are too far away, the sentence may be confusing.

The mayor chided the pedestrians for jaywalking angrily.

(The adverb angrily appears to be modifying jaywalking, so the sentence is confusing.)

A modifier that is placed near or next to the word or phrase it modifies can still be confusing if it is also near another word it could conceivably modify.

The film’s attempt to portray war accurately depicts a survivor’s anguish.

(The reader cannot be sure whether the film attempts to portray war accurately or whether it accurately depicts a survivor’s anguish.)

A dangling modifier usually appears at the beginning or end of a sentence.

After singing a thrilling aria, the crowd surged toward the stage.

(The modifier after singing a thrilling aria is dangling because it does not modify anything in this sentence.)

How to correct them

Modifiers should be placed close to the words they describe. If they are too far away, the sentence may be confusing. Revise this kind of misplaced modifier by moving the modifier closer to the word or group of words it modifies:

The mayor angrily chided the pedestrians for jaywalking angrily.

A modifier that is placed near or next to the word or phrase it modifies can still be confusing if it is also near another word it could conceivably modify. When a modifier’s placement causes ambiguity, rewrite the sentence, placing the modifier so that it clearly refers to the word or phrase it is supposed to modify.

The film’sIn its attempt to portray war accurately, the film depicts a survivor’s anguish.

To revise a sentence with a dangling modifier, follow these steps.

  1. Identify the word or words that the modifier is supposed to modify.
  2. Revise the sentence to correct the confusion by either changing the modifier into a clause with its own subject, or by rewriting the sentence so the word being modified becomes the subject.

After singingPavarotti sang a thrilling aria, the crowd surged toward the stage.

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