Dangling modifiers

By Mary Morel

A newsletter reader commented how much dangling modifiers annoy her. A phrase is ‘dangling’ when it becomes associated with a word other than the one intended – or with no particular word at all.

Walking down the street, the skyscrapers loomed over her. (Walking skyscrapers?)
Running fast for the bus, Betty’s umbrella blew inside out. (Running umbrella?)

And in The Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 25–31):

‘Bitterly divided by politics and religion for centuries, archaeologist and historian Neil Oliver charts how Scotland and England came together in 1701 to form Great Britain.’ (Poor Mr Oliver!)

We use many dangling modifiers without any concern (regarding, considering, provided that, assuming). They become a problem when they create confusion or are unintentionally funny.

Learn more

Read a Guardian article Excuse me, but I think your modifier is dangling.

Learn more about dangling modifiers with my online grammar course, Grammar Essentials (A$39).

View the full list of Online Writing Training courses.

 
 

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