What is a Dangling Modifier and How to Fix it?

Published by at August 17th, 2021 , Revised On September 21, 2021

modifier clarifies or explains another clause, word, or phrase in a sentence. However, when the intended subject of the modifier is not present in the sentence, and another subject takes its place, it is called a dangling modifier or a hanging modifier.

A dangling modifier typically appears in the introductory phrase of a sentence but is linked to the incorrect word, clause, or phrase.

What is a Dangling Sentence

In general, a “dangling” sentence, phrase, or clause, is one that is not a complete sentence and requires something else to make it complete.

Dangling Modifier Example

Dangling Corrected
  • Struggling with his injury, the home run couldn’t be hit.
  • As he was struggling with his injury, the home run couldn’t be hit.
  • Struggling with his injury, he couldn’t hit the home run.

How to Recognize a Dangling Modifier?

In a correct sentence, the doer or subject that is modified appears right after the comma. For example, the introductory phrase in the example below modifies the subject (Mike) of the main clause.

While meditatingMike felt at peace like never before.

On the other hand, when the subject being modified is missing from the sentence and another subject replaces it, the introductory phrase becomes a dangling modifier. A dangling modifier, in most cases, is a result of writing the main clause in the passive voice.

While meditatingpeace was felt like never before.

In the above sentence, the correct subject (Mike) of the modifier is missing from the main clause. Because the word “peace” follows the modifier and takes place of the correct subject, it appears as if “peace” was meditating.

The above example shows how a dangling modifier can result in meaningless sentences.

Fixing a Dangling Modifier

Here are the two most commonly used methods to fix dangling modifiers;

Method 1: Edit the Modifier Phrase

A simple method of fixing a dangling modifier is to add the subject in the introductory phrase of the sentence, without making any change to the main clause.

Dangling Corrected
  • Struggling with his injury, the home run couldn’t be hit.
  • As he was struggling with his injury, the home couldn’t be hit.

In the above example, the dangling modifier is fixed by including the subject in the introductory phrase, and so it gives a correct indication of who is performing the action.

Dangling Corrected
  • While walking to school, a road accident caused panic among the pedestrians.
  • Making just $50 per week with the current employer, a new job had to be found.
  • Requiring more participants for the research, an additional 20 people from the same organization were contacted.
  • While James was walking to school, a road accident caused panic among the pedestrians.
  • Because Katherine was making just $50 per week with the current employer, a new job hand to be found.
  • Because the research requires more participants to validate the research, an additional 20 people from the same organization were contacted.

Method 2: Edit the Main Clause

Another method to fix a dangling modifier is to revise the main clause rather than editing the introductory phrase, so the intended subject shows immediately after the comma in the main clause.

Dangling Corrected
  • Struggling with his injury, the home run couldn’t be hit.
  • Struggling with his injury, John could not hit the home run.

The dangling modifier in the above example rather overshadows the real subject who was injured, because the introductory phrase does not describe the intended subject. In the corrected sentence, the subject, John, appears right after the comma to give meaning to it.

Dangling Corrected
  • Fasting for the last twenty days, a significant weight loss was achieved.
  • Making just $50 per week with the current employer, a new job had to be found.
  • To become a practicing medical doctor, many difficult exams have to be passed.
  • Fasting for the last twenty days, he achieved a significant weight loss.
  • Making just $50 per week with the current employer, she had to find a new job.
  • To become a practicing medical doctor, you must pass many difficult exams.

About Alvin Nicolas

Nicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.