Clear, concise, and grammatically correct writing is crucial in effectively communicating your ideas. However, even the most diligent writers can sometimes stumble over common grammatical errors. One such error is the dangling modifier. This article explores what dangling modifiers are, how to identify them, and how to correct them to strengthen your writing.

Understanding Modifiers

Before delving into dangling modifiers, let’s first understand modifiers. A modifier is a word or a group of words that provides description or detail about something in a sentence. It can be an adjective, an adverb, a phrase, or a clause.

Modifiers should always be close to the words they describe to avoid ambiguity. When a modifier incorrectly refers to the wrong word, or it’s unclear what word the modifier is referring to, we encounter problems: misplaced modifiers and dangling modifiers.

What are Dangling Modifiers?

A dangling modifier is a type of misplaced modifier. However, while a misplaced modifier can be resolved by simply moving it closer to the word it’s intended to modify, a dangling modifier is trickier because the word it’s meant to modify is missing entirely from the sentence.

Dangling modifiers often occur at the beginning of a sentence, usually in the form of a present participle (-ing word), a past participle (-ed word), or a to-infinitive phrase. Here’s an example:

Dangling: Having finished the assignment, the Xbox was my next target. Corrected: Having finished the assignment, I turned my attention to the Xbox.

In the dangling example, the modifier “Having finished the assignment” is left dangling because it’s not clear who finished the assignment. The sentence reads as if the Xbox finished the assignment, which doesn’t make sense.

How to Identify Dangling Modifiers

Dangling modifiers can be tricky to spot because they can still make a sentence grammatically correct, just illogical. Here are some tips to help identify them:

  1. Look for Modifiers at the Beginning of Sentences: As mentioned, dangling modifiers often occur at the start of sentences, usually as -ing or -ed phrases. If the sentence starts with a modifying phrase, check if it clearly relates to the subject that immediately follows.
  2. Check for Logical Meaning: Even if the sentence seems grammatically correct, check if the modifier’s placement makes sense in the context. Does the subject of the sentence logically perform the action in the modifier?

How to Fix Dangling Modifiers

Once you’ve identified a dangling modifier, fixing it usually involves adding or changing the subject of the sentence. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Add the Missing Subject: The most direct way to fix a dangling modifier is to add the missing subject into the sentence, generally immediately after the modifier.

Dangling: After reading the original manuscript, the book seemed less interesting. Corrected: After reading the original manuscript, I found the book less interesting.

  1. Change the Dangling Part of the Sentence: Another approach is to rephrase the sentence so that the subject is incorporated into the modifying phrase.

Dangling: To improve her health, the daily routine was drastically changed. Corrected: To improve her health, she drastically changed her daily routine.


Dangling modifiers, though a common mistake, can create confusion and obscure your message. By learning how to identify and correct them, you can enhance the clarity and quality of your writing. Remember, good writing is not just about following grammar rules; it’s about ensuring your message is clear and understandable. So, keep practicing, stay mindful of these errors, and watch your writing skills grow.

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