Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
See the illogic in this example:
Walking back from the village, my wallet was lost. (Does your wallet walk?)
REVISED: Walking back from the village, I lost my wallet. (Your wallet doesn’t walk, but you do.)
A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that, due to its placement, mistakenly refers to the wrong word. The modifier truly is misplaced.
To correct a misplaced modifier, move it next to or near the word it modifies:
A fine athlete and student, the coach honored the captain of the tennis team. (The coach was not the fine athlete and student.)
REVISED: The coach honored the captain of the tennis team, who was a fine athlete and student.
A limiting modifier (e.g., only, almost, nearly, just) is commonly misplaced.
To avoid ambiguity, place the limiting modifier in front of the word it explains:
Marsh reinforces the view that the artist only intended the images for a local audience.
REVISED: Marsh reinforces the view that the artist intended the images only for a local audience.
A dangling modifier is a (usually introductory) word or phrase that the writer intends to modify a following word, but the following word is missing. The result is an illogical statement.
To fix a dangling modifier, add the missing word and place the modifier next to it:
Acting on numerous complaints from students, a fox was found on campus. (The fox did not act on the complaint.)
REVISED: Acting on numerous complaints from students, security found a fox on campus.
Example: After reading the original study, the flaws in Lee’s argument are obvious. (The flaws did not read the study.)
REVISED: Reading the original study reveals obvious flaws in Lee’s argument.
Dangling modifiers go hand-in-hand with wordiness and passive voice. Correct one and you correct them all!
Developing the ability to communicate in a clear, organized, and effective way is a central goal of a liberal arts education — and a prerequisite for a successful career. That’s why we established centers for writing and speaking.
Office / Department Name
Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center
Writing Center Director