Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
Modifiers are adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions that
add information about nouns and verbs:
- Exhausted, Mary walked
slowly to the old, dented
The word exhausted modifies Mary. Slowly
is an adverb describing how Mary walked. The adjectives old
and dented modify the car.
Modifiers only work when they are clearly placed. Misplaced
modifiers create confusing sentences:
- I saw the woman who was elected mayor in
the shopping mall.
(Was the election held in a shopping mall?)
- She wore a ribbon in her hair which was red.
(What is red, her hair or the ribbon?)
Modifiers must be placed next to what they describe to avoid
- When I was in the shopping mall,
I saw the woman who was elected mayor.
- She wore a red ribbon in her hair.
Dangling modifiers occur at the opening
of a sentence when they fail to modify what immediately follows
- Opened in 1892, many
tourists visit Ellis Island.
(Many tourists were not opened in 1892)
- Opened in 1892, Ellis
Island has become a tourist attraction.
You can apply this simple test to detect dangling
- Read the sentence:
Having neglected repairs, the car broke down.
- Identify the opening modifier:
Having neglected repairs
- Ask who or what it modifies. The answer follows
Q: Who neglected repairs? A: the car
(the car didn't repair anything)
- Devise corrected versions:
The neglected car broke down.
Neglected for years, the car broke down.
Return to top
Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark