Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grammar Nazi Count Down: Episode Three -- Dangling Modifiers

Every time Nerdvark tells The Nard that he has written a dangling modifier, Nard giggles.  That adds to The Nerdvark's distress, until the small whiskers on his face kink.

In English, a "modifier" is a phrase that adds information about the subject of the sentence.  A dangling modifier is one whose subject is missing.  It isn't clear from the sentence what the dangling modifier is modifying, which is why it is left dangling.  It's kind of like when Nardvark made a date with one of his online friends.  The friend did not show up, leaving Nardvark dangling.  

We can write about this situation in a sentence using a modifier correctly, like this:
Having been jilted by his internet friend, Nerdvark stood embarrassed and alone in the line up for the love canal.

If we leave the modifier dangling, though, the sentence can be misunderstood and even silly:
Having been jilted by his internet friend, the love-canal line up was a lonely place to stand.
This sentence implies that the love-canal line up was jilted.  This misuse of a modifier can also be called a "misplaced modifier."
Jilted by his internet friend, it was a lonely and embarrassing moment.
This sentence is confusing because we don't know who was jilted.
The Nerdvark's facial whiskers get kinked
when he is exposed to dangling modifiers.

Please help save The Nerdvark.  Make sure your modifiers modify the subjects of your sentences.  If you're still  not sure, check here.

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