Did You See That?

While scanning the article, the dangling modifier caught her eye.

You saw that, right?  The way the words are arranged in the preceding sentence, it sounds like an alien creature tried to pluck someone’s peepers while scanning an article.  And although the dangling modifier, also known as a dangling participle, can inject alien influence into a sentence, it’s also an easy fix.

In general the inappropriate word or phrase doesn’t actually refer the word it’s intended to modify.  Sometimes the word it meant to refer to doesn’t even appear in the sentence, which is an easy slip because the writer has the subject firmly in mind, but the words don’t come out the way they’re supposed to.  For instance:

With a glance at the gamboling goats, the gate closed.

Obviously gates don’t glance at goats and close themselves.  The farmer who actually carried out these activities fell out of the sentence.  And writers usually fall into that error because they’re trying to mix up sentence structure beyond the subject-predicate-object arrangement.

As stated, it’s easy enough to fix.  The first sentence can be:  While scanning the article, she noticed the dangling modifier.

And the capricious caretaker can receive his credit:  With a glance at the gamboling goats, the farmer closed the gate.

Making modifications to the wrong subject can cause hilarity as well as confusion.  When you look over the following examples, notice the twisted image they present, and then determine how to right their wrongs:

Hungry after the long hike, the sandwich was eaten with relish.

Having finished the romantic meal, the radio was turned on.

Drinking a glass of wine, the chicken tasted even better.

Disappointed, the woolly sheep could not be shorn.

Bedraggled but expensive, she decided not to buy the rooster.

Keeping those modifiers from dangling isn’t hard, although they can slip in when you least expect it.  Pay attention to those words and how they influence each other.  It just goes to show that by reviewing the writing, the error becomes clear.

You saw that, right…?

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