DANGLING AND MISPLACED MODIFIERS - Revised
For clarity in English, modifiers must be close to the words they describe or limit. A modifier dangles when the word or phrase it describes is missing from its sentence. A modifier is misplaced when the word or phrase it describes is not close enough to be clear. Many modification problems are created by introductory phrases. After an introductory phrase, always supply a logical subject. That subject is usually the “doer” of the action and answers the questions “Who?” or “What?”
Pushing the wrong key, the document suddenly disappeared.
Pushing the wrong key, I saw the document suddenly disappear.
After being in the refrigerator a week, Stacy said the salad tasted strange.
After being in the refrigerator a week, the salad tasted strange to Stacy.
Introductory verbal phrases are particularly dangerous when followed by passive-voice constructions. Using an active voice verb often helps to resolve modification problems. Another remedy involves adding a subject to the main element to make a sentence clear.
To win the lottery, a ticket must be purchased. (Passive-voice verb)
To win the lottery, you must purchase a ticket. (Active-voice verb)
Hampered by fierce winds, water could not be dropped on the fire.
Hampered by fierce winds, helicopters could not drop water on the fire.
While pumping gas, a driverless car rolled into mine.
While I was pumping gas, a driverless car rolled into mine.
(Subject added to introductory clause)
Don’t confuse commands with dangling modifiers. In commands the subject is understood to be you. Correct:
To graduate early, enroll in summer school. The understood
subject is you; you must enroll in summer school.
On this sheet or a separate one, revise the following sentences to remedy dangling and misplaced modifiers. Retain all introductory expressions. If a sentence is already correct, mark C before it.
After regaining consciousness, passersby helped the accident victim out of the car.
Strolling down South Beach, the Park Hotel is just one of Art Deco buildings you’ll see.
To qualify for the certificate, students must maintain perfect attendance.
Immediately following birth, identification tags are applied to all newborns’ wrists.
Looking back through history, no presidency has seen greater trial and tribulation.
Walking up the driveway, the Rolls Royce and Mercedes parked in the garage were
immediately seen by the detectives.
After surviving three days in freezing conditions, doctors miraculously saved the child.
Plunging 1,000 feet into the gorge, we were amazed at the grandeur of Yosemite Falls.
To be most fruitful, you should set out tomato plants after the soil warms in the spring.
Reacting to stress, food is more likely to be eaten by women than by men.
Not all modification problems appear in introductory phrases. To correct misplaced modifiers in other parts of sentences, move the unclear expression closer to the word(s) modified.
A wart appeared on my left hand that I want removed. Revision:
A wart that I want removed appeared on my left hand.
Remedy the following misplaced modifiers. If a sentence is already correct, write C before it.
11. We can make arrangements with the tax collector that you can live with.
12. The patient was referred to a psychiatrist with a severe emotional problem.
13. Firefighters rescued a dog from a car that had a broken leg.
14. The sun greeted me as I came out of the house with a golden glow.
15. He carried the puppy in his car that was only three weeks old.
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