Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dangling Modifiers By Kristen Harris

A modifier must have a word or phrase to modify, and it is the writer’s task to make sure the audience understands this relationship clearly. It is important for the reader to be able to identify which word or phrase is being modified without having to think about it. If this is not accomplished, the reader becomes confused and then may stop reading altogether. An example of a dangling modifier, that is found in our Correct Writing work-book, is “Hearing a number of entertaining stories, our visit was thoroughly enjoyable.” This sentence is confusing to the reader because it is not clear what “Hearing a number of entertaining stories”, modifies.

To correct a dangling modifier in a phrase, it is possible to just change or re-word the subject to which the modifier is referring. Another way to correct sentences with dangling modifiers is to expand the modifier into a dependent clause. An example of this would be: Since my last trip up to the mountains, I haven’t been able go skiing. It is important to recognize dangling modifiers in your own work before trying to get it published or marked. A great over-view of modifiers done by the University of Ottawa can be found here.

As a general rule, it is best to have modifiers as close to the word they modify as possible. In some sentences that have a subject and an object, it is possible for a modifier to attach itself to either, so it is best to position it to indicate the intended meaning clearly. All writers must make sure to correct any dangling modifiers they find; a writer wouldn’t want to leave his readers hanging. Our class went over the importance of proof-reading in an exercise and Rena wrote a nice story which she then proof-read.

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