Cleveland State University

The Writing Center

Dangling Modifiers

The Writing Center

Your professor may have scrawled the letters DM somewhere on your writing - right! You probably worked out that DM stands for Dangling Modifier, but now you are wondering what on earth is a Dangling Modifier, and how can it be corrected?

Read on!

Before you begin, remind yourself that a modifier describes a noun or a verb. It can be a single word, such as an adverb or an adjective, or it can be a phrase. A modifier is most effective when it is placed next to the word it modifies, or in close proximity.

A Dangling Modifier occurs when the modifier and the word it modifies are not clearly visible in one sentence.

        e.g. The dogs need to be fed after washing your hands.

Now this sounds as if the dogs are going to be washing your hands.

Solution: the dogs need to be fed after you have washed your hands.

        e.g. Helping her unload the van, the traffic grew snarled and congested.

This sounds as if the traffic was helping her unload the van!

Solution: While we helped her unload the van, the traffic grew snarled and congested.

        e.g. The surgery began, having anesthetized the accident victim.

This sounds as if the surgery did the anesthetizing!

Solution: The surgery began, once the accident victim was anesthetized.

        e.g. Having moved away at fifteen, his hometown no longer seemed familiar.

This sounds as if the hometown moved away at fifteen! Who moved away?

Solution: having moved away at fifteen, the boy no longer found his hometown familiar.

Once you start looking for Dangling Modifiers you will find that you begin to recognize them. Just remember to make sure that the subject and it’s modifier are in the same sentence.

Complied from The Allyn & Bacon Handbook, 3rd edition (319-321) and Handbook of Current English, 7th edition.(72)



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