Anda di halaman 1dari 14

Sometimes, there's a big difference between what a sentence should mean and what it

actually says. One of the most common causes of this problem is known as a dangling
modifier. In this lesson, we'll learn how to spot dangling modifiers and how to resolve the
problems they cause.

What Is a Dangling Modifier?


Before we jump into the subject of this lesson, we have to define a few key terms. First
things first, a modifieris any word or phrase that changes (or modifies) the meaning of
another word or phrase. It is important to note that adjectives (such as 'red') and adverbs
(such as 'quickly') aren't the only kinds of modifiers out there. In fact, some modifiers don't
use any adjectives or adverbs at all. For example, in the phrase 'the house on the hill,' the
words 'on the hill' modifies the meaning of 'the house' because it tells us where the house is
located.
Next, let's talk about clauses. To put it simply, a clause is a part of a sentence. Some
sentences only have one clause (such as 'I walked to the park'), but more complex
sentences contain multiple clauses. For the purposes of this lesson, we'll be looking at
how introductory clauses can affect the meaning of a whole sentence. An introductory
clause is a clause that leads us into the main clause. For example, in the sentence 'After
eating breakfast, I walked to the park,' the clause 'After eating breakfast' introduces the rest
of the sentence by giving us a sense of time.
Now that we've armed ourselves with these terms, let's turn our attention to the heart of the
matter: dangling modifiers. A dangling modifier is simply a modifier that isn't clearly
attached to another part of the sentence (hence the word 'dangling'). Because dangling
modifiers muddle the meaning of a sentence, they createambiguity (a situation where a
sentence can be read as having several different meanings). With that in mind, let's look at
two (somewhat silly) examples of dangling modifiers.

Examples
Example #1: Mouse in Pajamas
Consider the following sentence:
Putting on my pajamas, a mouse ran across the floor.
Try to put yourself into the scene that this sentence creates (perhaps you've already had a
similar experience). The speaker of the sentence is putting on his or her pajamas when a
mouse runs across the floor. Simple enough, right? However, if you look closely at each
clause of the sentence, you'll realize that something's amiss.
The introductory clause ('Putting on my pajamas') brings us into the scene, but it also acts
as a modifier. Logically, we assume that this clause exists to modify 'I' (the speaker of the
sentence), showing us that the speaker is putting on his or her pajamas when the action of
the sentence occurs. However, there is no 'I' to be found in the main clause, so the phrase
'Putting on my pajamas' is technically modifying the subject of the main clause ( 'a mouse').

Therefore, the situation in this sentence is pretty strangethe mouse is putting on the
speaker's pajamas!
Common sense tells us to interpret the sentence one way, but the meaning is very different
if we read the sentence literally. This is an excellent example of the ambiguity that dangling
modifiers create. So, how do we resolve this ambiguity? We rewrite the sentence so that
there is a clear connection between the modifier and the intended subject ('I') of the
sentence. This can be done in at least two ways.
The first method of resolving a dangling modifier is to make the actual subject a part of the
introductory clause. Let's see what happens when we bring 'I' into the introductory clause of
our example:
While I was putting on my pajamas, a mouse ran across the floor.
Obviously, the meaning of this sentence is much clearer, but it has a slightly different feel to
it. This is because the introductory clause has become more like an independent
clause (a clause that can stand on its own). To put it another way, if we cut the word
'While,' the clause would read as a complete sentence ('I was putting on my pajamas').
Now, let's move onto the second way of resolving dangling modifiers, which involves adding
more information to the main clause of the sentence:
Putting on my pajamas, I saw a mouse run across the floor.
This sentence has a feel that's much closer to the original example, but there is no
ambiguity to be found. This is because the original modifier ('Putting on my pajamas') hasn't
changed at all. Rather, now that we've made adjustments to the main clause of the
sentence, the subject of the modifier has been made clearer. Of course, each of these
methods of resolving dangling modifiers works equally well. It's just a matter of how close
you want the feel of the revised sentence to be to the original.
Example #2: Clouds on the Street
Now, let's put what we've learned into practice. Here is another (slightly surreal) example:
Walking down the street, the clouds burst into rain.
Once again, there's a considerable gap between what the sentence should mean and what
it actually says. Unless the author of this sentence is describing how rain clouds walk down
the street, it's very likely that we're facing another dangling modifier ('Walking down the
street'). So, let's try revising the sentence using both of the methods we learned in the
previous section.
Here's the first method (adding to the introductory clause):
While Steve was walking down the street, the clouds burst into rain.

Parallelism

A
Parallelism

Attention--Non-native speakers of English: Martha Ruszkowski has kindly made a Belorussian


translation of the material below available for your use.

To get across ideas of equal value or to create snazzy sentences, use parallel sentence structure.
Good sentences attempt to form parallel patterns. Without this parallel structure, they can sound
stilted and awkward. For instance, which sentence sounds better below?

(1) King Alfred tried to make the law clear, precise, and equitable.

(2) King Alfred tried to make clear laws that had precision and were equitable.

Most people would argue that the first sentence somehow "sounds better" than the second. The first
sentence uses parallel structure in its adjectives. The second doesn't. If we label the parts of speech,
the first sentence has this grammatical structure after the word law: [Adjective--Adjective-Adjective]. The second sentence has this grammatical structure after the word laws: [Relative
Pronoun--Verb-- Direct Object--Conjunction--Verb--Adjectiv

Parallelism
Attention--Non-native speakers of English: Martha Ruszkowski has kindly made a Belorussian
translation of the material below available for your use.

To get across ideas of equal value or to create snazzy sentences, use parallel
sentence structure. Good sentences attempt to form parallel patterns. Without
this parallel structure, they can sound stilted and awkward. For instance, which
sentence sounds better below?

(1) King Alfred tried to make the law clear, precise, and equitable.
(2) King Alfred tried to make clear laws that had precision and were equitable.
Most people would argue that the first sentence somehow "sounds better" than
the second. The first sentence uses parallel structure in its adjectives. The
second doesn't. If we label the parts of speech, the first sentence has this
grammatical structure after the word law:[Adjective--Adjective-Adjective]. The second sentence has this grammatical structure after the
word laws: [Relative Pronoun--Verb-- Direct Object--Conjunction--Verb-Adjective]. The first sentence has a clear pattern of adjective, adjective,
adjective. The second sentence has no pattern at all!
To hear the difference between a parallel and non-parallel sentence, read aloud
the sentences below. The red sentences are examples of "bad" or faulty
parallelism. The blue sentences use parallel structure.
faulty parallelism: She revels in chocolate, walking under the moonlight, and
songs from the 1930s jazz period.
good parallelism: She revels in sweet chocolate eclairs, long moonlit walks,
and classic jazz music.
more good parallelism: She loves eating chocolate eclairs, taking moonlit
walks, and singing classic jazz.
Do you hear the difference? What causes that distinction between "good" and
"bad" sentences? Again, the difference appears in the pattern of grammar. If
we dissect the sentence, the faulty sentence on top has a grammatical pattern
that looks like this:
"She revels in . . . "
"chocolate," [Object of Preposition,]
"walking under the moonlight," [Gerund--Preposition--Definite Article-Object of Preposition]
"and songs from the 1930s jazz period." [Conjunction--Direct Object-Preposition--Definite Article--Adjective --Adjective--Object of Preposition]
It's all a jumbled mess of different parts of speech being used in different
ways. On the other hand, the second sentence has a clear parallel pattern:
"She revels in"
"sweet chocolate eclairs," [Adjective--Adjective--Object]
"long moonlit walks," [Adjective--Adjective--Object]

"and classic jazz music." [Adjective--Adjective--Object]


The same pattern (adjective, adjective object) reoccurs in the same way. It is
parallel in its structure, and thus musical and rhythmical to read and to hear
spoken aloud. The second example is also parallel, just in a different pattern.
"She revels in"
"eating chocolate eclairs" [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]
"taking moonlit walks" [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]
"and singing classic jazz." [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]
Good writers attempt to form these good sentences. Here are some more
examples culled from Karen Gordon's The Transitive Vampire:

faulty parallelism: I like to eat rich deserts, playing fast card-games,


and riddles.

good parallelism: I like eating rich deserts, playing fast card-games,


and solving difficult riddles.

more good parallelism: I like to eat rich desserts, to play fast cardgames, and to solve difficult riddles.

more good parallelism: I like rich desserts, fast card-games, and


difficult riddles.

bad: She is unfathomable, with a head of strawberry blond hair, and


has a seductive manner.

good: She is an unfathomable, seductive strawberry blond.

bad: He is cute, wears a pinstriped suit, and has a dashing way about
him.

good: He is cute and dashing in his pinstriped suit.

bad: The faun has shyness, with rough hooves, and behaves in a
sylvan fashion.

good: The faun is shy, rough-footed, and sylvan.

good: The rough-hoofed faun is shy and sylvan.

Note that faulty parallelism isn't really a grammatical mistake. It's actually a
stylistic problem. When editors are marking up a paper for revisions, you may
note they place a pair of slanting lines in the margin--like this //. Those two
slanting lines (//) indicate the editor has spotted faulty parallelism in that line
of text, and the editor wants the author to fix it.

e]. The first sentence has a clear pattern of adjective, adjective, adjective. The second sentence has
no pattern at all!

To hear the difference between a parallel and non-parallel sentence, read aloud the sentences
below. The red sentences are examples of "bad" or faulty parallelism. The blue sentences use
parallel structure.

faulty parallelism: She revels in chocolate, walking under the moonlight, and songs from the 1930s
jazz period.
good parallelism: She revels in sweet chocolate eclairs, long moonlit walks, and classic jazz music.
more good parallelism: She loves eating chocolate eclairs, taking moonlit walks, and singing
classic jazz.

Do you hear the difference? What causes that distinction between "good" and "bad" sentences?
Again, the difference appears in the pattern of grammar. If we dissect the sentence, the faulty
sentence on top has a grammatical pattern that looks like this:

"She revels in . . . "

"chocolate," [Object of Preposition,]

"walking under the moonlight," [Gerund--Preposition--Definite Article--Object of Preposition]

"and songs from the 1930s jazz period." [Conjunction--Direct Object--Preposition--Definite


Article--Adjective --Adjective--Object of Preposition]

It's all a jumbled mess of different parts of speech being used in different ways. On the other hand,

the second sentence has a clear parallel pattern:

"She revels in"

"sweet chocolate eclairs," [Adjective--Adjective--Object]

"long moonlit walks," [Adjective--Adjective--Object]

"and classic jazz music." [Adjective--Adjective--Object]

The same pattern (adjective, adjective object) reoccurs in the same way. It is parallel in its
structure, and thus musical and rhythmical to read and to hear spoken aloud. The second example
is also parallel, just in a different pattern.

"She revels in"

"eating chocolate eclairs" [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]

"taking moonlit walks" [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]

"and singing classic jazz." [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]

Good writers attempt to form these good sentences. Here are some more examples culled from
Karen Gordon's The Transitive Vampire:

faulty parallelism: I like to eat rich deserts, playing fast card-games, and riddles.
good parallelism: I like eating rich deserts, playing fast card-games, and solving difficult riddles.
more good parallelism: I like to eat rich desserts, to play fast card-games, and to solve difficult

riddles.
more good parallelism: I like rich desserts, fast card-games, and difficult riddles.
bad: She is unfathomable, with a head of strawberry blond hair, and has a seductive manner.
good: She is an unfathomable, seductive strawberry blond.
bad: He is cute, wears a pinstriped suit, and has a dashing way about him.
good: He is cute and dashing in his pinstriped suit.
bad: The faun has shyness, with rough hooves, and behaves in a sylvan fashion.
good: The faun is shy, rough-footed, and sylvan.
good: The rough-hoofed faun is shy and sylvan.
Note that faulty parallelism isn't really a grammatical mistake. It's actually a stylistic problem.
When editors are marking up a paper for revisions, you may note they place a pair of slanting lines
in the margin--like this //. Those two slanting lines (//) indicate the editor has spotted faulty
parallelism in that line of text, and the editor wants the author to fix it.ttention--Non-native
speakers of English: Martha Ruszkowski has kindly made a Belorussian translation of the material
below available for your use.

To get across ideas of equal value or to create snazzy sentences, use parallel
sentence structure. Good sentences attempt to form parallel patterns. Without this
parallel structure, they can sound stilted and awkward. For instance, which
sentence sounds better below?

(1) King Alfred tried to make the law clear, precise, and equitable.
(2) King Alfred tried to make clear laws that had precision and were equitable.
Most people would argue that the first sentence somehow "sounds better" than the
second. The first sentence uses parallel structure in its adjectives. The second
doesn't. If we label the parts of speech, the first sentence has this grammatical
structure after the word law:[Adjective--Adjective--Adjective]. The second
sentence has this grammatical structure after the word laws: [Relative Pronoun-Verb-- Direct Object--Conjunction--Verb--Adjective]. The first sentence has a clear
pattern of adjective, adjective, adjective. The second sentence has no pattern at all!
To hear the difference between a parallel and non-parallel sentence, read aloud the
sentences below. The red sentences are examples of "bad" or faulty parallelism.
The blue sentences use parallel structure.
faulty parallelism: She revels in chocolate, walking under the moonlight, and

songs from the 1930s jazz period.


good parallelism: She revels in sweet chocolate eclairs, long moonlit walks, and
classic jazz music.
more good parallelism: She loves eating chocolate eclairs, taking moonlit walks,
and singing classic jazz.
Do you hear the difference? What causes that distinction between "good" and
"bad" sentences? Again, the difference appears in the pattern of grammar. If we
dissect the sentence, the faulty sentence on top has a grammatical pattern that looks
like this:
"She revels in . . . "
"chocolate," [Object of Preposition,]
"walking under the moonlight," [Gerund--Preposition--Definite Article--Object of
Preposition]
"and songs from the 1930s jazz period." [Conjunction--Direct Object-Preposition--Definite Article--Adjective --Adjective--Object of Preposition]
It's all a jumbled mess of different parts of speech being used in different ways. On
the other hand, the second sentence has a clear parallel pattern:
"She revels in"
"sweet chocolate eclairs," [Adjective--Adjective--Object]
"long moonlit walks," [Adjective--Adjective--Object]
"and classic jazz music." [Adjective--Adjective--Object]
The same pattern (adjective, adjective object) reoccurs in the same way. It is
parallel in its structure, and thus musical and rhythmical to read and to hear spoken
aloud. The second example is also parallel, just in a different pattern.
"She revels in"
"eating chocolate eclairs" [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]
"taking moonlit walks" [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]
"and singing classic jazz." [Gerund--Adjective--Object of Gerund]
Good writers attempt to form these good sentences. Here are some more examples
culled from Karen Gordon's The Transitive Vampire:

faulty parallelism: I like to eat rich deserts, playing fast card-games, and

riddles.

good parallelism: I like eating rich deserts, playing fast card-games, and
solving difficult riddles.

more good parallelism: I like to eat rich desserts, to play fast card-games,
and to solve difficult riddles.

more good parallelism: I like rich desserts, fast card-games, and difficult
riddles.

bad: She is unfathomable, with a head of strawberry blond hair, and has a
seductive manner.

good: She is an unfathomable, seductive strawberry blond.

bad: He is cute, wears a pinstriped suit, and has a dashing way about him.

good: He is cute and dashing in his pinstriped suit.

bad: The faun has shyness, with rough hooves, and behaves in a sylvan
fashion.

good: The faun is shy, rough-footed, and sylvan.

good: The rough-hoofed faun is shy and sylvan.

Note that faulty parallelism isn't really a grammatical mistake. It's actually a
stylistic problem. When editors are marking up a paper for revisions, you may note
they place a pair of slanting lines in the margin--like this //. Those two slanting
lines (//) indicate the editor has spotted faulty parallelism in that line of text, and
the editor wants the author to fix it.
A dangling modifier[1] is an ambiguous grammatical construct, whereby a grammatical
modifier could be misinterpreted as being associated with a word other than the one
intended or with no particular word at all. For example, a writer may have meant to modify
the subject, but word order makes the modifier seem to modify an object instead. Such
ambiguities can lead to unintentional humor or difficulty in understanding a sentence in
formal contexts.
A typical example of a dangling modifier is illustrated in Turning the corner, a handsome
school building appeared.[2] The modifying clauseTurning the corner is clearly supposed to
describe the behavior of the narrator (or other observer), but grammatically it appears to
apply to nothing in particular or to the school building. Similarly, in At the age of eight, my
family finally bought a dog,[3] the modifier At the age of eight"dangles", not attaching to the
subject of the main clause (and possibly implying that the family was eight years old when it
bought the dog, or even that the dog was eight when it was bought, rather than the
intended meaning of giving the narrator's age at the time).

Dangling Modifiers and How To Correct Them


Summary:
This resource explains what a dangling modifier is and how to correct
the problem.
Contributors:Chris Berry, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2013-01-07 12:05:23
A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not
clearly stated in the sentence. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives
more detail about a concept.
Having finished the assignment, Jill turned on the TV.
"Having finished" states an action but does not name the doer of that
action. In English sentences, the doer must be the subject of the
main clause that follows. In this sentence, it is Jill. She seems
logically to be the one doing the action ("having finished"), and this
sentence therefore does not have a dangling modifier.
The following sentence has an incorrect usage:
Having finished the assignment, the TV was turned on.
"Having finished" is a participle expressing action, but the doer is not
the TV set (the subject of the main clause): TV sets don't finish
assignments. Since the doer of the action expressed in the participle
has not been clearly stated, the participial phrase is said to be a
dangling modifier.
Strategies for revising dangling modifiers:
1. Name the appropriate or logical doer of the action as the subject of
the main clause:
Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was
needed.

Who arrived late? This sentence says that the written excuse arrived
late. To revise, decide who actually arrived late. The possible revision
might look like this:
Having arrived late for practice, the team captain needed a
written excuse.
The main clause now names the person (the captain) who did the
action in the modifying phrase (arrived late).
2. Change the phrase that dangles into a complete introductory
clause by naming the doer of the action in that clause:
Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce
him.
Who didn't know his name? This sentence says that "it" didn't know
his name. To revise, decide who was trying to introduce him. The
revision might look something like this:
Because Maria did not know his name, it was difficult to
introduce him.
The phrase is now a complete introductory clause; it does not modify
any other part of the sentence, so is not considered "dangling."
3. Combine the phrase and main clause into one:
To improve his results, the experiment was done again.
Who wanted to improve results? This sentence says that the
experiment was trying to improve its own results. To revise, combine
the phrase and the main clause into one sentence. The revision might
look something like this:
He improved his results by doing the experiment again.
More examples of dangling modifiers and their revisions:

INCORRECT: After reading the original study, the article remains


unconvincing.
REVISED: After reading the original study, I find the article
unconvincing.
INCORRECT: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, your
home should be a place to relax.
REVISED: Relieved of your responsibilities at your
job, you should be able to relax at home.
INCORRECT: The experiment was a failure, not having studied
the lab manual carefully.
REVISED: They failed the experiment, not having studied the lab
manual carefully.

1.
2.

1.
2.
3.

1.

2.

Below are suggested answers to the exercise in Correcting Squinting Modifiers.


In most cases, the more likely arrangement appears first, but--depending on the
context--the version in parenthesis might also be correct.
Juan walked only half a mile.
(Only Juan walked half a mile.)
The lecture notes he was reading to the class put the students to
sleep quickly.
(The lecture notes he was quickly reading to the class put the students to
sleep.)
The mayor promised to lower city taxes after her reelection.
(After her reelection, the mayor promised to lower city taxes.)
Our instructor asked us to turn in our essays before we left.
(Before we left, our instructor asked us to turn in our essays.)
People in the office who constantly talk about their own problems annoy
everyone else.
(People in the office who talk about their own problems annoy everyone
else constantly.)
Rick wanted to know what the umpire said to the managers before the
inning started.
(Before the inning started, Rick wanted to know what the umpire said to the
managers.)
The possibility of my grant suddenly ending troubles me.
(The possibility of my grant ending troubles me suddenly.)

3.

Students who often write on their own will improve their composition

skills.
(Students who write on their own will often improve their composition skills.)
4.
For a person to become truly good is difficult.
(For a person to become good is truly difficult.)
5.
The driver of the truck that had twice left its lane had to be extricated
from the vehicle by firefighters and was taken to the hospital.
(The driver of the truck that had left its lane had to be extricated twice from the
vehicle by firefighters and was taken to the hospital.)