What Is a Dangling Modifier? (with Examples)

What Is a Dangling Modifier? (with Examples)

A dangling modifier is a modifier that has nothing to modify. Remember, modifiers describe a word or make its meaning more specific. A dangling modifier is an error caused by failing to use the word that the modifier is meant to be describing.

Examples of Dangling Modifiers

Here is an example of a dangling modifier (shaded):

  • Having read your letter, my cat will stay indoors until the ducklings fly off.
In this example, the missing word is we. A correct version would be:

  • Having read your letter, we will keep our cat indoors until the ducklings fly off.
  • (In this example, the modifier Having read your letter is modifying we as it should.)
Logically, the wrong example suggests the cat read the letter.

Here is another example of a dangling modifier (shaded):

  • Meticulous and punctual, David's work ethic is admirable.
In this example, the missing word is David (as a standalone subject). A correct version would be:

  • Meticulous and punctual, David has an admirable work ethic.
  • (In this example, the modifier Meticulous and punctual is modifying David as it should, not David's work ethic.)
Logically, the wrong example suggests David's work ethic is meticulous and punctual.

Here is another example of a dangling modifier (shaded):

  • Having seen Blackpool Tower, the Eiffel Tower is more impressive.
In this example, the missing word is she. A correct version would be:

  • Having seen Blackpool Tower, she thinks the Eiffel Tower is more impressive.
  • (In this example, the modifier Having seen Blackpool Tower is modifying she as it should, not the Eiffel Tower .)
Logically, the wrong example suggests the Eiffel Tower saw the Blackpool Tower.

A Dangling Modifier As a Misplaced Modifier

Sometimes, a modifier can dangle a bit. This happens when the word being modified is present but is not next to its modifier. Look at this example:

  • Vicious smelly creatures with huge tusks, the ship's crew found it difficult to drive the male walruses from the beach.
This is still a dangling modifier, but it's not dangling fully because the thing being modified (the male walruses) is present. This is better known as a misplaced modifier.

This is a correct version:

  • Vicious smelly creatures with huge tusks, the male walruses were difficult for the ship's crew to drive from the beach.


See also:

What are modifiers?
What is a misplaced modifier?
What is a squinting modifier?
What is a limiting modifier?
Glossary of grammatical terms
 
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