Beware the dangling modifier

As an editor, I see dangling modifiers everywhere.

If you don’t know what that means, let’s break it down so you can get maximum word-nerd cred.

What is a modifier?

As an editor, I see dangling modifiers everywhere.

‘As an editor’ is the modifier. It’s modifying ‘I’ by giving some extra information.

And a dangling modifier?

As an editing teacher, my students love it when I explain dangling modifiers.

‘As an editing teacher’ is the modifier, but what is it modifying? The students? No. It’s ‘dangling’ because it’s not modifying anything.

Here’s another version that I see all the time.

Sitting down, the couch was really comfortable.

‘Sitting down’ is the modifier, but the couch didn’t sit down, so what’s ‘sitting down’ modifying?

How to correct:

There’s no one quick fix; it depends on each instance. Here are some options.

Cut the modifier if it’s not needed:
My editing students love it when I teach them about dangling modifiers.
(See how I slipped the information about their being editing students into the sentence so I could cut the information about my being an editing teacher?)

Add whatever’s being modified:
Sitting down, she found the couch really comfortable.

Think outside the box:
She sank into the comfortable couch.

And a correction for the dangling modifier in the picture? How about – Because you are a valued member, Vision Super is here to help.

There are also squinting and misplaced modifiers. Curious? Here’s a post I prepared earlier.

POST NOTE THOUGHT FOR ANY EDITORS AND GRAMMAR GEEKS OUT THERE

their being editing students OR them being editing students?

Technically ‘their’ is correct, as ‘being’ is a gerund (verb acting as a noun), but this kind of gerund construction is going out of fashion. ‘Them’ would be acceptable and easier on the ear, but I just can’t bring myself to do it given this is a mini grammar lesson and I’m supposed to be coming over all brainiac in that department. Am I being a stuck-in-the-mud?

 

One thought on “Beware the dangling modifier

  1. Niels Saunders says:

    This a great explanation. Thank you!

    Dangling modifiers are one of those things that I understand in concept but they still sneak into my work sometimes.

    (I thought putting a dangling modifier into that above sentence for maximum irony)

    Liked by 1 person

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