The Basics of Dangling Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers

modifier is a phrase that adds information to a sentence. The modifiers in the following sentences are underlined; what they are modifying is in bold:

Receiving a phone call, the girl excused herself from class.

Covered in grass, the hill stood tall and proud by its town.

Losing track of his train of thought, the boy trailed off.

As you might note, the subject being modified is the noun that follows directly after the phrase. When the noun that follows is not the noun you wish to modify, the problem of dangling modifiers is created.

Walking next to her mother, the crowd became too loud for Suzelle, who only wanted to hear what her mother was saying.

Deleting all his hard work, a new topic was chosen by Sam.

Beginning to talk about unrelated subjects, the students stopped listening to the rambling professor.

Unfortunately, the modifiers in the above examples are not modifying the correct nouns, which makes them dangling modifiers. Because the noun that follows directly after the phrase is the noun that gets modified, a writer must be careful about the sentence structure used. To fix those incorrect examples, try the following:

Walking next to her mother, Suzelle leaned in closer because the crowd was talking too loudly for her to hear clearly.

Deleting all his hard work, Sam chose a new topic.

Beginning to talk about unrelated subjects, the rambling professor lost the interest and attention of her students.

The key to avoiding dangling modifiers is making sure that the noun that follows your modifier is truly the noun you wish to modify!