Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly identified in the sentence. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept. You dangle a modifier when you create an introductory phrase whose implied subject differs from the explicit subject in the following or preceding clause.

            Example: Hoping to find the flaw, the results of the tests were reviewed.

The modifier, hoping to find, dangles because its implicit subject (whoever hopes) differs from the explicit subject of the clause it attaches to (the results of the tests).

            Revision: Hoping to find the flaw, we reviewed the results of the test.

Strategies for Revising Dangling Modifiers:

1. Name the appropriate or logical doer of the action as the subject of the main clause

            Example: Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was needed.

            Who arrived late? The written excuse?

            Revision: Having arrived late for practice, the team captain needed a written excuse.

2. Change the phrase that dangles into a complete introductory clause by naming the doer of the action in that clause.

            Example: Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

            Who didn’t know his name? It?

            Revision: Because Maria did not know his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

3. Combine the phrase and the main clause into one:

            Example: To improve his results, the experiment was done again.

            Who wanted to improve results? The experiment?

            Revision: He improved his results by doing the experiment again.

Misplaced Modifiers

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause whose position in the sentence implies that it modifies one word or phrase when the writer means it to modify a different one.

            Example: The duke pointed out the portrait of his last duchess to the guests mounted on the wall.

The modifier, mounted on the wall, is misplaced because it implies that the guests are mounted on the wall rather than the portrait of the last duchess.

            Revision: The duke pointed out to his guests the portrait of his last duchess mounted on the wall.

Strategies for Revising Misplaced Modifiers:

1. Place modifying words carefully. Words such as only, nearly, rarely, just, simply, occasionally, and hardly, should always come immediately before the words they modify, or confusion results.

            Example: Students who seek their instructors' advice often can improve their grades.

            Revision: Students who often seek their instructor's advice can improve their grades.

or

Revision: Students who seek their instructor's advice can often improve their grades.

 2. Place misplaced phrases in their correct position:

            Example: The learned scholar taught a course last semester in sexual harassment at Emory University.

Revision: Last semester at Emory University, the learned scholar taught a course in sexual harassment.

or

Revision: Last semester, the learned scholar taught a course "Sexual Harrassment at Emory University."

 3. Place misplaced dependent clauses in their correct position:

Example: The sexual abstinence program will reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases which will benefit everyone.

Revision: The sexual abstinence program, which will benefit everyone, will reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseased.