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Dangling Modifiers

Unlike a misplaced modifier, which directs attention to the wrong part of the sentence, a dangling modifier has nothing to modify. They are complete sentences, but they make no sense.


  • Driving down the road, a deer watched him carefully.
  • Youthful misdemeanors can come back to haunt you while job hunting.


Modifiers offer an opportunity to go into greater detail about a subject, but the subject must be explicitly present in the sentence. Sometimes the solution is to add the missing subject, as in the first example: “As he drove down the road, a deer watched him carefully.” Now it’s clear that the deer wasn’t driving down the road. In the second example, youthful misdemeanors aren’t job hunting; you are.


A modifier, as an actor within a sentence, makes a small change to that sentence. It is usually descriptive, as in “dressed like a penguin,” and is intended to deepen or clarify a sentence so that the reader recognizes subtlety of detail. “Dressed like a penguin, John reluctantly removed his cowboy hat and took his wife’s hand as they joined the party.” We can surmise that he was probably wearing a tuxedo; the modifier shines a light on his feelings.

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