Dangling modifiers

These most often occur with participles or other introductory phrases or clauses, as in: “After debating the amendment, a vote was taken.” (The vote didn’t debate the amendment.) That introductory phrase acts as an adjective and needs to attach itself to the word or words it modifies, as in: “After debating the amendment, the senators voted on it.”

Danglers are also common in sentences in which a writer uses it when trying to give a sense of place but trying not to inject himself into a story, as in: “Standing on the Kansas River levee last week, it wasn’t hard for Carey Maynard-Moody to start ticking off a list of Lawrence’s natural resources.” It wasn’t standing on the levee; the reporter and Carey Maynard-Moody were.

Another common misuse occurs when the writer leaves out the subject of the sentence, as in: “Wading into the surf, his swimsuit fell off.” The swimsuit wasn’t wading into the surf. He was.

Watch for danglers within or at the ends of sentences, as well. They can produce equally comical results:

“He has had the wristband since his freshman season, which the Lawrence junior says he never washes.”

“Perkins said he once thought he would stay at UConn for the rest of his career, where he worked for 13 years before coming to Kansas.”

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