2 Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers A GRAMMAR TUTORIALBY NANCY SCHROCK
3 Topics for Today’s Discussion Definition of a modifierTypes of modifiersExamples of misplaced and dangling modifiersCorrecting the problemExercises and a confessionConclusions
4 Modifier What is a modifier? An expression that limits or describes another word or phraseWords, phrases, or subordinate clausesExample: Little boats (little describes boats)
5 Types of Modifiers Adjectives - modify nouns or pronouns Little boats stay close to shore.Adverbs - modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbsLittle boats sail slowly. (adverb)Participial phrases - function as adjectives and are participles (verbs ending in -ing) plus other wordsHaving no GPS, our boat stays close to shore.Prepositional phrases - function as adjectives or adverbs, preposition + noun or noun equivalentWith only one sail, our boat stays close to shore.Infinitive phrases- as modifiers can function as adjectives or adverbsTo avoid risk, we sail our boat close to shore.Subordinate clauses - as modifiers they contain a subject + verb but function as adjectives or adverbsLittle boats that stay close to shore avoid taking risks.Not usually a problemCan be problematic
6 Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers Misplaced modifiers are not near the word they modifyExample: If you stay close to the shore for little boats, the risk of sinking is reduced. (For little boats is close to shore and seems to be modifying shore.)Improved: If you stay close to the shore, the risk of sinking for little boats is reduced.Dangling modifier is one where the word modified is not explicitExample: By staying close to shore, the risk of sinking is reduced. (The word modified, boat, is not in the sentence.)Improved: By staying close to shore, little boats reduce the risk of sinking.Delayed subject -- it or there is nearest the modifier but is not the word modifiedExample: By staying close to shore, it is possible for little boats to reduce the risk of sinking. (It delays the appearance of the subject, boats, and reduces the clarity of the meaning.)
7 More Misplaced Modifiers Squinting modifiersA modifier caught between two words, either of which might be the modified wordExample: Little boats sailing quickly found tar close to shore (Did the boats sail quickly or quickly find tar?)Improved: When the little boats sailed near to shore, they quickly found tar.Split infinitives (to + verb)A modifier placed between to and the verbExample: … to carefully stay close to shore….Improved: …to stay carefully close to shore….
9 How to Correct Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers The modifier should be positioned to give the correct meaning - usually near the word modifiedMake the word modified obvious and not hidden or ambiguousDon’t split infinitivesRecognize that modifiers can be misplaced or dangling and consult a guide when in doubt
10 Correcting Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers Continued “Most misplaced modifiers can be corrected by moving them to the beginning of the sentence or closer to the word modified. Dangling modifiers are often phrases already at the start of the sentence and followed by a comma. They should modify the subject of the sentence which follows the comma.Dangling modifiers can be corrected by adding a word which the phrase can modify or by changing the phrase to a clause.” *For example, “Hit into the outfield, the boy caught the ball.” (Incorrect)Change to the following: “The boy caught the ball, which was hit into the outfield.”* Towns, Esther. “Don't Let Your Modifier Dangle, Columnist Warns.” The Star Press, Muncie, Ind <.bsu.edu/workshop/Towns/Dangling.Modifiers.htm> 22 October 2010.
11 ExercisesBP was sure by August the oil would be stopped. (squinting modifier -- Was BP sure by August or would the oil be stopped by August?)BP was sure the oil would be stopped by August.Remembering that one can tell a cracked vessel by its sound, Tony Hayward stated to the press that he wanted his life back. (dangling modifier -- It was not Tony who remembered this expression.)Remembering that one can tell a cracked vessel by its sound, I watched Tony Hayward state to the press that he wanted his life back.
12 ExercisesThrowing pearls to swine, it was clear BP executives would not take the scientists’ advice. (delayed subject)Throwing pearls to swine, the scientists gave BP executives advice that they would not take.At the risk of being insensitive, he will get another date with me when hell freezes over. (misplaced modifier -- The speaker or writer is the one at risk of being insensitive.)At the risk of being insensitive, I told him I would date him again when hell freezes over.
13 Exercises and Confession In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne had to publicly wear the red letter “A” to mark her as an adulterer. (split infinitive)In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne had to wear publicly the red letter “A” to mark her as an adulterer.When her performance did not improve, Penny worked with Kelly Services to have the contractor replaced. (It was not Penny’s performance that was a problem.)When the contractor’s performance did not improve, Penny worked with Kelly Services to have the contractor replaced. (added whose performance to the subordinate clause)
14 Conclusion Ensure clarity of meaning with modifiers Locate the modifier near the word modifiedMake the word modified obvious and not ambiguousSeek assistance from references when in doubt!References:From the Writing Lab website:A Writer’s Reference, Diana HackerThe Random House Handbook