Caleb S.
Caleb S.

Dangling Modifier, Its Types, and How to Fix it

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Published on: Jun 13, 2024

Last updated on: Jun 20, 2024

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“Having finished the work, the movie was turned on.”

Does that sentence sound weird to you, as if something is missing? That’s because it is. 

In the sentence, there is no subject of the main clause. We don’t know who turned on the movie or who finished the work. This is a dangling modifier. 

In this blog, you will learn what a dangling modifier is, how to recognize it, its different types, and more. 

So let’s get right into it!

What is a Dangling Modifier

So what exactly is a dangling modifier? A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that doesn't logically or grammatically relate to the subject it's intended to modify. In simple terms, it is an error that occurs when the subject is missing. 

Just picture it as a lonely modifier dangling in the wind, disconnected from its target. Not a pretty sight …. grammatically speaking.

Dangling Modifier vs. Misplaced Modifier

While both types of modifiers can lead to confusion in your sentences, they come from different grammatical issues. 

Let’s take a look at what makes them different:

Dangling Modifier

A dangling modifier occurs when a modifying word, phrase, or clause does not have a clear and logical connection to the word it is intended to modify. 

Essentially, it dangles aimlessly, detached from its intended target, resulting in confusion or nonsensical meaning. 

For example: 

"Determined to succeed, the essay was written overnight."

In this sentence, the phrase "Determined to succeed" is used to modify the subject of the action, but it seems to describe "the essay." 

Misplaced Modifier

A misplaced modifier is correctly connected to the sentence but is improperly positioned, leading to confusion or ambiguity about what it is modifying.

For example:

"I only ate the cake that you baked for the party."

In this sentence, the placement of the modifier "only" makes it appear as though the speaker only consumed the cake and did nothing else to it. 

Dangling Modifiers in Different Types of Phrases

Let’s take a look at the dangling modifiers in different types of phrases you might face when writing:

Participle Phrases

These are phrases formed with verbs ending in "-ing" or "-ed" that modify a noun or pronoun

For example, "Walking to the store, the rain began to fall." In this sentence, it is unclear who or what is walking. The rain?

Let's take a look at the participle dangling phrases and their correct version:

Dangling

Corrected

After running for hours, the pizza was finally delivered.

After running for hours, I finally delivered the pizza.

Running through the park, the flowers were admired.

Running through the park, I admired the flowers.

Infinitive Phrases

Similar to participle phrases, infinitive phrases use the base form of a verb (to + verb) to modify a noun or pronoun. 

For instance, "To improve your writing, practice daily." Who should be practicing daily?

Let's take a look at the infinitive dangling phrases and their correct version:

Dangling

Corrected

To get in shape, the gym was visited daily.

To get in shape, she visited the gym daily.

To become a doctor, it's a must to study hard.

To become a doctor, you must study hard.

Prepositional Phrases

These phrases begin with a preposition (like "with," "in," or "on") and modify a noun or pronoun. 

For example, "After studying all night, the test was aced." Who studied all night?

Let's take a look at the prepositional dangling phrases and their correct version:

Dangling

Corrected

With a broken leg, the marathon was challenging.

With a broken leg, he found the marathon challenging.

With excitement, the concert tickets were purchased. 

With excitement, he purchased the concert tickets. 

How to Recognize a Dangling Modifier

Now that we know what dangling modifiers are, let's talk about how to spot them in writing. 

Here are a few signs you should look out for:

  • Look for introductory phrases that don't connect to the subject of the sentence. For example: Running down the street, a car accident was witnessed.
  • Pay attention to ambiguous sentences where it's unclear who or what the modifier is describing. For example: After finishing the assignment, the movie was watched
  • Check for awkward or illogical sentence structures that might indicate a dangling modifier is lurking nearby.  For example: Hiking in the mountains, the tent was set up by the experienced campers.

How to Fix a Dangling Modifier

Now that you know what dangling modifiers are and how to spot them, we will tell you how you can fix them.

Here are different methods you can use for fixing dangling modifiers:

Method 1: Make the Subject Clear

One of the simplest ways to fix a dangling modifier is to make the subject of the sentence clear and explicit. 

By clearly identifying who or what the modifier is referring to, you can eliminate any confusion. 

For example, instead of saying "Running down the street, the dog chased the ball," you could 

say "As the dog ran down the street, it chased the ball."

Method 2: Introduce the Subject Immediately

Another effective method is to introduce the subject immediately after the modifier. This helps to establish a clear connection between the modifier and the subject, leaving no room for confusion. 

For instance, instead of saying "To improve your writing, daily practice is essential," you could say "To improve your writing, you must practice daily."

Method 3: Combine or Restructure the Sentences

Sometimes, fixing a dangling modifier requires a bit of creative restructuring. This might involve combining sentences, reordering clauses, or rephrasing the entire sentence to ensure clarity.

For example, instead of saying "After finishing his homework, the book was read," you could say "After finishing his homework, he read the book."

So there you have it!

Now you know everything you need to know about dangling modifiers and how to fix them. 

Now you can not only identify the dangling modifiers, but you will be able to fix them as well. 

Use this blog to improve your writing and if you encounter confusing dangling modifiers again, feel free to revisit this blog. 

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Continue Learning

If you want to learn more about academic writing, grammar, and related concepts, check out these blogs. 

Grammar


Writing


Citation

Interjection

Essay Writing

APA format

Homophones

Paraphrasing

MLA format

Infinitives

Thesis Statement

Chicago Style

Analogy

Paragraph

Harvard Style

Participle

Summary

IEEE Citation

Articles in Grammar

Plagiarism

Oxford Referencing

Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Mass Literature and Linguistics, Masters)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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