To understand this lesson properly, you should take a look at our previous lesson that introduces the concept of modifiers. It will also take you through the concept of ‘Squinting Modifiers’. Click on the link below to read it, and then head back here to enhance your written English.
In simple words, dangling modifiers are errors, because they are an absolute misfit in a sentence. Some sentences do not have anything to modify, but we still end up using adverbs or adjectives. Compare them with something that dangles that means, hangs. It does not have a place in the sentence, but only hands there, incorrectly.
When writing something, we often get carried away and confuse if we have anything to imply or not. This is one common reason for the use of dangling modifiers.
Let us understand the concept with an example: Having read your letter, my cat will stay indoors until the ducklings fly off.
In the above sentence, the phrase ‘having read your letter’ is a dangling modifier. There is no mention of the person who read the letter. It is obvious that the cat will not read it, but its owner will. Therefore, the sentence lacks a proper subject, and so the modifier dangles.
A better manner of writing the same sentence is ‘Having read your letter, we will keep our cat indoors until the ducklings fly off.’ Here, the phrase ‘having read your letter’ modifies the noun ‘we’.
Yet again, just like squinting modifiers, it causes ambiguity in understanding the sentence. To fix a dangling modifier, you need to shift the subject to the beginning of the second clause.
To ease the topic, let us fix another sentence with a dangling modifier.
While lying under a tree, a bee stung his left ear. You can cognize the dangling modifier in this sentence because it is ambiguous. There is no proper subject that it can modify. To fix this sentence, we need to add a subject. While Martin was lying under a tree, a bee stung his left ear.
Practice Fixing Dangling Modifiers
Take a look at the sentences below, and identify how you can fix the dangling modifiers in them. You can leave your answer in the comment section below. After all, there is no better way of learning something than a discussion.
- Meticulous and punctual, David’s work ethic is admirable.
- While crossing the road, the bus hit Janet.
- Vicious smelly creatures with huge tusks, the ship’s crew found it difficult to drive the male walruses from the beach.
- The weather was fine; swimming and splashing seawater at each other.
- Having seen the movie once, there is no reason to see it again.
- Hoping to excuse my lateness, the note was written and given to my teacher.
- Bitten by a snake, the fear was that the snake could be poisonous.
- After reading the great new book, the movie based on it is sure to be exciting