WRITING:  DANGLING MODIFIERS                  October 24, 2017

Another common problem in writing and grammar concerns modifiers that don’t modify clearly or at all. Dangling and misplaced modifiers can leave your reader confused and calling you for clarifications. This week, we’ll discuss dangling modifiers and use an example so that we can learn to put these modifiers in their place. (Another time, we’ll supply a similar treatment about misplaced modifiers–with explanations, examples, and fixes included.)

A dangling modifier usually appears at the beginning of a sentence. At first glance it may seem to modify the word/words that follow it; a thorough read, though, will prove otherwise.

Unlike some transitions, dangling modifiers can’t be “fixed” by moving them elsewhere in the sentence because no matter where they’re located they can’t adequately modify anything in the sentence. The fix: Either eliminate the modifier or rewrite the sentence.

The problematic sentence: Tarnished beyond repair, I threw away my favorite vase.

The problem: (Who or what was tarnished, the narrator, or the vase?)

Fix #1 eliminates the modifier: I threw away my favorite vase.

Fix #2 rewrites the sentence:

I threw away my favorite vase; it was tarnished beyond repair.

I threw away my favorite vase because it was tarnished beyond repair.

Because my favorite vase was tarnished beyond repair, I threw it away.

I threw away my favorite vase, tarnished beyond repair.

As you can tell, modifiers play a key role in writing for reader comprehension.  To communicate clearly, first construct the sentence logically in your mind; then, write it down. Later, proofread your piece objectively to be sure that your message is clear for your reader to understand. If you follow these steps faithfully, you’ll never leave your readers “dangling” again.

Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.





Vickie L. Weaver

Vickie L. Weaver

Owner at Writestyle
Writing has been an important talent and part of my life since I was a child.Professionally, after decades of employment for others, I founded Writestyle in 1996 to provide writing, editing, proofreading, training, and more to clients worldwide (www.writestyle.com).Clients often call my work “magic.”I have written and/or edited for “Coexistence Magazine” (national), for “Ohio Magazine,” and for various newspapers.In addition, I have edited or contributed to the writing of numerous books.Personally, I have written in various genres.I have always composed poetry; as such, I have won awards and publication for some of my poems, and I am compiling a book of my poetry.One of my children’s books is set for publication.With my second husband, family and friends in Ohio, I enjoy music and dance, aid charitable causes, and strive for beauty and harmony in life.
Vickie L. Weaver

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