Modifiers, or descriptive words or phrases, can add a great deal of interest to a sentence. They are an important tool for writing descriptive, engaging content. However, when used improperly, modifiers can be confusing or distort the meaning of a sentence. One common modifier error, dangling modifiers, is described along with some examples.
A modifier is a word or phrase that is used to add additional detail. Modifiers have to modify, or describe, something in the sentence. They usually describe a subject, verb or objective. For example: The excited girl ran quickly to the yellow house. "Excited" is an adjective modifying girl, "quickly" is an adverb modifying ran, and "yellow" is an adjective modifying house.
Modifiers can be adjectives, adverbs, possessive pronouns, or phrases.
Modifiers should be placed as closely as possible to the thing which they are modifying. Ideally, they should be directly next to the thing being modified, either before or after (with a helping verb in some circumstances).
The happy girl or the girl was happy ("Was" is the helping verb). The boy walked slowly or the boy slowly walked
Adjectives go before the thing they are modifying or after, with a helping verb.
Adverbs can go before or after the thing they are modifying
Possessive pronouns go before the thing they are modifying, or after, with a helping verb.
That is his toy or that toy is his ("Is" is the helping verb)
Phrases can go before or after the thing they are modifying
Alex, a refined painter, is known for his work. A refined painter, Alex is known for his work.
A dangling modifer occurs when the subject being modified, or described by the modifier, does not actually appear in the sentence. Because the modifier is without a subject, it is considered to be "dangling."
Having arrived at the store should be describing a person who arrived at the store. However, it is not actually describing anything- it is just dangling
As written, this phrase seems to be modifying "it." Since "it" is not a person who didn't want to be rude and who was having a hard time leaving early, this is obviously a dangling modifier since there is no subject who is worried about being rude.
In order to correct a dangling modifier, you can modify the sentence to include a subject and ensure that the modifier goes directly next to the subject that it is modifying.
This sentence now has a subject - Adam - being described by the modifier. The modifier is no longer dangling, since it is describing Adam.
You can also correct a dangling modifier by changing it into a complete introductory clause.
This sentence is no longer a modifier. It is an introductory clause, which explains why Matt did not want to leave early. Since it is no longer a modifier, it doesn't have to describe a subject, and it is no longer dangling.
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