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Avoid Dangling Modifiers


A dangling modifier is an adjective that does not refer clearly to a specific word or group of words in a sentence. In the following sentences, the adjective phrases dangle because they do not refer clearly to a particular word or group of words-or they are not next to the words they describe.

Examples:

Having rotted in the cellar all winter, my brother was unable to sell the apples.
To be sure the report would be delivered on time, "URGENT" was written across the front of the envelope.

In the first sentence, the participle phrase having rotted. . . is supposed to describe the apples, but it is placed right in front of my brother instead. In the second sentence, the infinitive phrase to be sure. . . is supposed to describe we or I or someone else not named in the sentence, but it is placed in front of "URGENT" instead. To correct these dangling modifiers, we could rewrite the sentences.

Examples:

• Having rotted in the cellar all winter, the apples could not be sold by my brother.
• To be sure the report would be delivered on time, we wrote "URGENT" across the front of the envelope.

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