Dangling Modifiers Don’t Have the Right Word to Modify

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Two weeks ago, I gave examples of misplaced modifiers. Today we’ll look at examples of dangling modifiers: phrases or clauses that are not logically related to the words they modify. They jar and confuse readers.

Participial phrases can be dangling modifiers. Watch out for those -ing verb forms.

Examples

1. Confusing: Listening for the cat, the feline scratched the door.

This says the feline was listening for the cat. Unlike misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers take more work to fix.

Clear: While I listened for the cat, the feline scratched the door.

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2. Confusing: Taking photos of the barn, my camera fell into manure.

Here, my camera was taking photos of the barn.

Clear: I snapped photos of the barn. When I stumbled, I dropped my camera, and it fell into manure.

3. Confusing:  Looking at the sea, a ship battled the waves.

This sounds like the ship looked at the sea.

Clear:  Jim looked at the sea. A ship battled the waves.

Not all Dangling modifiers are participial phrases. Sometimes adjectives have no noun or pronoun to modify.

Examples

1. Confusing: Tired, the bed was inviting.

Because no person is mentioned, the bed was tired?

 Clear:  Tired, I wanted to crawl under the bed’s covers.

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2. Confusing: Wary, guns were drawn.

Hmm. Guns were wary.

Clear:  Wary, police officers unholstered their guns.

Or how about an adverbial phrase.

3. Confusing: After a few unsteady steps, the dish flew from Gordon’s hand.

Here, the dish took a few unsteady steps.

Clear: After a few unsteady steps, Gordon tripped, and the dish he held flew from his hand.

Opening modifying phrases need to have something to modify in a sentence, or they modify something else.

Can you share a humorous example of a dangling modifier?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

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