Quick Link: 5 Cases of Dangling Modifiers

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5 Cases of Dangling Modifiers

Words Written In Plastic Kids LettersBy Mark Nichol

Take care that when you begin a sentence with a subordinate clause—a string of words that does not stand on its own as a complete statement but supports the main clause—the modifying phrase pertains to the sentence’s subject and not to some other noun or noun phrase. Here are five sentences that fail the test, with explanations and revisions.

1. Despite being reluctant to start a film career, Alan Rickman’s initial foray into cinema found him nearly stealing Die Hard away from Bruce Willis and cementing his status as a master of memorable bad guys.

This sentence suggests that Alan Rickman’s movie debut was reluctant to begin a career in film. The modifying phrase must refer specifically to the person, not to a reference to something about the person, to repair this illogical error; simply insert his name, change the adjective reluctant to the noun reluctance, and, in the subject of the sentence, change his name to a pronoun: “Despite Alan Rickman’s reluctance about starting a film career, his initial foray into cinema found him nearly stealing Die Hard away from Bruce Willis and cementing his status as a master of memorable bad guys.”

2. Stopped up on blocks, I can see the boat from keel to top deck.

Writers (or their editors) can often fix dangling modifiers—here, the writer describes herself, not the boat, as being stopped up on blocks—by starting the sentence with a subject and inserting the modifier as a parenthetical in the middle of the sentence: “I can see the boat, stopped up on blocks, from keel to top deck.”

Read the full post on Daily Writing Tips

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