Dangling modifiers

Misplaced modifiers, like the omission of a FANBOY comma, can lead you up the garden path. The problem is that you think you are saying one thing, and the reader thinks something else entirely.

A modifier says something extra about something. So in the phrase ‘the red car’, the word ‘red’ modifies the word ‘car’. Modifiers are usually adjectives (the red car) or adverbs (she sneezed loudly), but whole phrases can function as modifiers.

Introductory modifying phrases modify the subject of the main clause. For example: ‘Walking in to the hospital, patients will see the admissions desk first.’

Who is walking in to the hospital? The patients.

The example in the photo above is the same structure, but something is wrong. Two things that can go wrong with modifiers are that they can be misplaced or dangling. A misplaced modifier is describing something other than what the author intended to describe, but something which is present in the sentence:

The woman signed the paper with the pale face.

The phrase ‘with the pale face’ should be modifying ‘the woman’, but because it’s closest to ‘the paper’ it sounds as if the paper has a pale face. This should be:

The woman with the pale face signed the paper.

A dangling modifier is one that isn’t present at all in the sentence:

While walking in to the house, the telephone rang.

This sounds as if the telephone was walking into the house. But there’s a missing agent here: who was walking into the house? A person, presumably; the point is, the modifier is left ‘dangling’ because it can’t find anything to attach itself to. Let’s supply the agent:

While walking in to the house, the woman heard the telephone ring.

In the example in the photo above, the question is: Who is a family company? And the answer according to the way it’s currently written is ‘the eggs’. This should be re-written to read: ‘Being a family company, we ensure these eggs are produced …’.

Here are some links to more information about dangling and misplaced modifiers: