Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Funny dangling modifiers are some of my favorite grammar mistakes to find out on the wild. I get a real kick out of the mental images I get from trying to decipher what the author really meant.
If you’re in the mood for a chuckle, keep reading! There are some gems below.
What is a dangling modifier?
First of all, what is a modifier? A modifier is an adjective or noun that gives more detail about another noun. They should appear right next to the word they describe.
A dangling modifier occurs when a word modifies the wrong subject or where the subject is unclear or missing from the sentence.
Just to confuse things even more, there are also misplaced modifiers. Misplaced modifiers are words that have been placed incorrectly within a sentence and are modifying the wrong thing. They can change the intended meaning of a sentence.
And then there are squinting modifiers that occur when a modifier is placed between two things it could modify so that it’s unclear which thing it’s modifying.
How do you identify a dangling modifier?
So how do you identify these little brats so you can get rid of them?
Dangling modifiers typically occur at the beginning of a sentence.
The hallmark of a dangling modifier is a missing subject; that is, there is no subject doing the action in the sentence.
Example: After leaving the house, the car was started.
In this sentence the doer (the subject) of the action is missing. Did the car leave the house? Who started the car? I know technology is pretty advanced these days, but I think someone still has to switch the car on!
How do you get rid of dangling modifiers?
First, you need to identify who is completing the action in the sentence — the subject of the sentence.
Dangling: After leaving the house, the car was started.
Better: After leaving the house, I started the car.
You may need to change/rewrite the sentence to clarify who’s completing the action. To fix a dangling modifier, you often have to add more words to the sentence.
Another way to fix them is to rewrite the sentence to change two clauses into one clause.
Dangling: To make the most of the buffet, all the food was eaten.
Better: Sarah ate all the food to make the most of the buffet.
Now we know who the Hungry Harry was!
Examples of funny dangling modifiers
Now, let’s take a look at the funnies…
Eek! Is this a horror story or a story about gardening?
Dangling: After returning from the dead, my sister took the plants outside.
Better: After the plants returned from the dead, my sister took them outside.
Better: After returning from the dead, the plants were taken outside by my sister.
Tee-hee! This sounds like something that Yogi Bear would do!
Dangling: The cops chased the bear in the squad car.
Better: The cops in their squad car chased the bear.
Better: In their squad car, the cops chased the bear.
What a terrible waitress! No tip for her! 😉
Dangling: Having finished my dinner, the waitress offered to bring out the dessert tray.
Better: When I finished my dinner, the waitress offered to bring out the dessert tray.
You never know what kind of crazy things you’ll see at the bus stop!
Dangling: Waiting for the bus, the time went by slowly.
Better: Waiting for the bus, I felt the time went by slowly.
Better: The time went by slowly while I was waiting for the bus.
This sentence really does paint an image, doesn’t it?! Who else is worried for Margaret’s safety?
Dangling: Taped to the wall, Margaret read the note.
Better: Margaret read the note that was taped to the wall.
Want further examples? Check out what the Comma Queen has to say on the subject!
Dangling Modifier Exercise
Want to test what you learned? Try your hand at fixing these dangling modifiers!
You can find sample answers below the image at the bottom of this post. Remember that there can be more than one correct answer as there are different ways to fix dangling modifiers.
1. After completing the course, proofreading was easy.
2. While driving to Maryland, my dog stuck his head out of the car window.
3. Starving, the three-day-old pizza was devoured.
4. With a grunt of disapproval, the newspaper was thrown on the table.
5. Having done the laundry, the bed was made.
Did you enjoy that lesson on identifying and fixing funny dangling modifiers? Dangling modifiers might sometimes be hilarious, but they also cause confusion. Knowing how to spot them and fix them is another sign that you’re an excellent proofreader!
Want to keep the fun going and learn more about grammar? Watch our free proofreading workshop to learn how you can make a career out of fixing grammar errors!
1. After completing the course, Sally found that proofreading was easy.
2. While I was driving to Maryland, my dog stuck his head out of the car window.
3. Starving, Joe devoured the three-day-old pizza.
4. With a grunt of disapproval, Rita threw the newspaper on the table.
5. Having done the laundry, Jack made the bed.