Welcome to error number nineteen in our top twenty most common grammar errors. Only six more errors to go and this blog series is in the bag.
What’s today’s grammar error?
The dangling modifier.
A modifier is any word or phrase that changes or modifies the meaning of the sentence. The modifier “alters, limits, or adds more info to something else in the sentence” (yourdictionary.com).
The Writing Center at the university of Wisconsin-Madison has a gorgeous list of 25 misplaced and dangling modifiers. Let’s play with the first dangling modifier on the list, because it’s fun:
Oozing slowly across the floor, Marvin watched the salad dressing.
What or who is doing the oozing? The way the sentence reads, it seems as if Marvin is the one doing the oozing.
Salad Dressing Ooze
But, in fact, the salad dressing is actually the thing that is oozing.
The modifier in this sentence is:
Oozing slowly across the floor
Modifiers do not have to be entire phrases though. They can be single words.
The happy puppy ran quickly to its new owner.
Were you able to pick out the modifiers in the above sentence? Happy modifies puppy, quickly modifies ran, and new modifies owner. And check this out: all those modifiers are either adjectives or adverbs!
Dangling modifiers confuse the sentence though, and lead to an unclearness not intended by the author. Did the author really intend Marvin to be oozing slowly across the floor? Perhaps maybe Marvin is a snail?