What is a Dangling Modifier? Definition, Examples of Dangling Modifiers

Dangling participle definition: A dangling modifier is a type of misplaced modifier that modifies a word or phrase that is not clearly stated in a sentence. Dangling modifiers are also called dangling participles.

What is a Dangling Modifier?

A dangling modifier is a type of misplaced modifier. A dangling modifier is misplaced because it does not have anything to modify. The word or words a dangling modifier should modify have been omitted from the sentence.

Dangling modifiers make unclear the meaning of a sentence. As you can see from the following examples, the sentences should be restructured to include the words the modifiers describe.

Dangling Modifier Examples

  • Incorrect: Reading the regulations, the dog did not enter the park.
    • “Reading the regulations” is a dangling modifier.
    • The dog cannot read the regulations; the word(s) that “reading the regulations” modifies have been omitted.
  • Correct: After reading the regulations, I did not enter the park with my dog.
  • Incorrect: Understanding the daycare’s policies, the baby waited for her mom.
    • The baby cannot understand the policies; the word(s) that “understanding the daycare’s policies” modifies have been omitted
  • Correct: Understanding the daycare’s policies, the mother picked up her baby.
    • “Understanding the daycare’s policies” now modifies “mother”.

How to Fix Dangling Modifiers

grammar dangling modifiers Writers should avoid constructing sentences with any type of misplaced modifier, and sentences with dangling modifiers should be restructured so that it is very clear which word or words the modifier describes.

Let’s correct the above example of a dangling participle to show how you can correct dangling modifiers in your sentences.

Incorrect:

  • Reading the regulations, the dog did not enter the park.
    • “Reading the regulations” is a dangling modifier.
    • The dog cannot read the regulations; the word(s) that “reading the regulations” modifies have been omitted.

Correct:

  • Reading the regulations, I did not take my dog into the park.
    • “Reading the regulations” now modifies “I”
    • I am able to read the regulations; therefore, the modifier is no longer “dangling” but appropriately placed and modifying the word that follows it

What’s Wrong with Misplaced Modifiers?

dangling modifier exampleOne of the obvious problems with misplaced modifiers is that they can change the meaning of sentences. This is clear in the above examples, where we have a dog “reading” park regulations.

For this reason, it is important to be very clear which words a modifier describes. Let’s go over a few tips to avoid misplaced modifiers.

Place modifiers only in sentences where:

  1. they are grammatically correct
  2. they do not add confusion
  3. they make clear which words they modify

Other Misplaced Modifiers

Dangling modifiers and dangling participles aren’t the only kind of misplaced modifiers that confuse writers. There are two other primary categories: limiting modifiers and squinting modifiers.

Limiting Modifiers

dangling modifiers examples What is a limiting modifier? Limiting modifiers express some sort of “limit.” They should be placed directly before the word they modify in a sentence.

The most common limiting modifiers are: almost, hardly, just, merely, nearly, and only.

Example of Limiting Modifiers:

Trying to say that the only person who wants dessert is David.

  • Incorrect: David only wants dessert.
  • Correct: Only David wants dessert.

Trying to say that Scott does not know many people.

  • Incorrect: Scott hardly knows anybody.
  • Correct: Scott knows hardly anybody.

Squinting Modifiers

dangling construction What is a squinting modifier? A squinting modifier is a word that describes but that is out of place. It is out of place because it could modify the word or phrase that comes before or after it.

Squinting modifiers can change the meaning of sentences. This is because the intention of the sentence is unclear. As a result, two different sentences (or meanings) exist.

Squinting modifiers are usually adverbs.

Examples of Squinting Modifiers:

  • Running in circles rapidly made me dizzy.
    • The problem here is that the adverb “rapidly” could modify the phrases “running in circles” or “made me dizzy”
    • Is it that I was running in circles rapidly?
    • Or is it that I was made dizzy rapidly?

As with most modifiers, squinting modifiers can be fixed by changing the location of the modifier in question.

For example,

  • Rapidly running in circles made me dizzy.

Summary: What are Dangling Modifiers?

Define dangling modifier: the definition of a dangling modifier is a modifier that is not properly connected to the subject of a sentence.

In summary, a dangling modifier:

  • is a type of misplaced modifier
  • makes unclear which word or words it modifies
  • is misplaced in that it modifies a word or words omitted from the sentence

should be corrected to make the meaning of a sentence clear

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