Dun Writin’—Now Whut? – 47 Dangling Modifiers (A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing)

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In a previous article, we discussed dangling participles (https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2014/05/27/dun-writin-now-whut-21-split-infinitives-and-dangling-participles/). Today we’re going to discuss dangling modifiers.

If you remember, “dangling” is another word for “misplaced.” A modifier is a noun or an adjective that amends or explains, adding description to another noun. So a dangling modifier is simply a word modifying a noun that is in the wrong place, thereby making the sentence ambiguous or confusing, and sometimes downright funny.

Incorrect: The woman walked the dog in purple suede cowboy boots.

Correct: The woman in purple suede cowboy boots walked the dog.

Incorrect: We saw several monkeys on vacation in Mexico.

Correct: While on vacation in Mexico, we saw several monkeys.

Incorrect: We saw several blue jays looking out our front window.

Correct: Looking out our front window, we saw several blue jays.

Incorrect: While camping, I saw a bear in my pajamas.

Correct: While camping in my pajamas, I saw a bear.

All these examples include people, but sometimes inanimate objects get in on the action, too!

Incorrect: The library has several books about dinosaurs in our school.

Correct: The library in our school has several books about dinosaurs.

Incorrect: I found my missing baseball glove cleaning my room.

Correct: While cleaning my room, I found my missing baseball glove.

Incorrect: He was staring at the girl by the vending machine wearing dark glasses.

Correct: He was staring at the girl wearing dark glasses by the vending machine.

More funny examples of misplaced modifiers and participles can be found here: http://www.eddiesnipes.com/2011/07/funny-dangling-and-misplaced-modifiers/.

Another famous example of this humorous effect is by Groucho Marx as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding in the 1930 film, Animal Crackers:

One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.”

We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!

Susan

Susan Uttendorfsky

Owner, Adirondack Editing

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