Are you dangling?

vehicle closing

When writing sentences, be careful not to dangle.

Some sentences have mistakes that make them difficult to read. Other sentences contain mistakes that make them hilarious. The funny ones often contain dangling modifiers. Learn what dangling modifiers are and how to avoid them so that you don’t make people laugh when you want them to be serious.

A dangling modifier fails to refer logically to any word in the sentence. A dangling modifier is usually a word group, such as a verbal phrase, that suggests, but does not name, a perpetrator. When a sentence opens with such a modifier, the reader expects the subject of the next clause to name the perp. If the subject doesn’t, the modifier dangles.

When writing

  • Place the modifier as close as possible to the word it modifies.
  • Put an adjective as close as possible to its noun.
  • Put an adverb as close as possible to its verb.

Here’s a favorite blooper: “The Rialto Film Institute will celebrate its grand reopening after a nearly decade-long renovation that doubled the number of screens to four on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.” I wonder where they got contractors to build two theaters in three hours. On Sunday from 2 to 5 belongs after grand reopening, of course, and two sentences might be better than one. Here are some other examples.

DANGLING Deciding to join the fitness club, the trainer shook Carrie’s hand. Deciding dangles because it describes Carrie, not the trainer.
CORRECT Deciding to join the fitness club, Carrie shook the hand of the trainer.
CORRECT When Carrie decided to join the fitness club, she shook the hand of the trainer.

DANGLING Upon seeing the tree listing sideways, strings were put in place to hold it upright. Upon seeing dangles because it describes the gardener, not the strings.
CORRECT Upon seeing the tree listing sideways, Jackie fastened strings to hold it upright.
CORRECT When Jackie saw the tree listing sideways, she fastened strings to hold it upright.

DANGLING Though only 14 years old, the teachers were impressed with Ariel’s grasp of Shakespearean tragedies. Though only 14 years old dangles because it describes Ariel, not her teachers.
CORRECT Though only 14, Ariel had a grasp of Shakespeare that impressed her teachers.
CORRECT Ariel, who is only 14, had a grasp of Shakespeare that impressed her teachers.

DANGLING After denying any wrongdoing, the helicopter whisked the president to Camp David. In this sentence, After denying any wrongdoing modifies the chopper.
CORRECT After he denied any wrongdoing, the president waved from the helicopter and left for Camp David.
CORRECT The president denied any wrongdoing, climbed onto the chopper and left town.

Best wishes for safe dangling.