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Humanities Libertexts

17.11: Modifiers

  • Page ID
    5040
  • [ "article:topic", "Dangling modifiers" ]

    Dangling modifiers

    A common way to save words and combine ideas is by starting a sentence with a phrase, a modifier, that provides additional information about an element in the sentence without having to make a whole separate sentence to state it. The rule for using modifiers at the beginning of a sentence is that the thing being modified must immediately follow the modifier. Sometimes this requires you to rearrange the sentence; other times you have to “spell out” what is being modified if you didn’t include it. Three examples help illustrate:

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    1. Covering most of Minnesota, the illustration showed the glacier that left the state with its thousands of lakes.

    In this sentence, the meaning seems to imply that the illustration rather than the glacier covered most of Minnesota.

    Corrected:

    Covering most of Minnesota, the glacier left the state with its thousands of lakes, as depicted on the illustration.

    1. Trekking across the desert, fierce winds swirled around the riders.

    In this sentence, the meaning implies that the fierce winds were trekking across the desert)

    Corrected:

    Trekking across the desert, the riders were assaulted by fierce winds. OR As the riders trekked across the desert, fierce winds swirled around them.

    1. First coined in 1980, historian Linda Kerber used the term “republican motherhood” to describe a phenomenon occurring after the Revolutionary War in which women were encouraged to promote the ideals of liberty and democracy to their children.
    Corrected:

    First coined in 1980, the term “republican motherhood” was used by historian Linda Kerber to describe a phenomenon occurring after the Revolutionary War in which women were encouraged to promote the ideals of liberty and democracy to their children.

    Misplaced Modifiers

    A misplaced modifier’s referent is present and accounted for, but as its name implies, the modifier itself is out of place within the sentence, such that it seems to modify another referent in the sentence, resulting in ambiguity or confusion. The following examples illustrate the point:

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    1. Erik couldn't ride his bicycle with a broken leg.
    Corrected:

    With his broken leg, Erik couldn't ride his bicycle

    The incorrect version seems to indicate that the bicycle had a broken leg.

    1. The little girl walked the dog wearing a tutu.
    Corrected:

    Still wearing a tutu, the little girl walked the dog.

    The incorrect version seems to imply that the dog could be wearing the tutu.

    1. Just don't stand there.
    Corrected:

    Don't just stand there.

    The incorrect version places the modifier “just” after the understood “you” rather than next to the verb it actually modifies.

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