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How to Avoid Dangling Modifiers

Learn how to avoid dangling modifiers from Gotham Writers' Workshop instructor Stephanie Paterik in this Howcast grammar video.


Woman 1: I'm going to teach you how to avoid the dreaded dangling modifier, but first it's important to know what a modifier is. A modifier is an adverb or an adjective that describes a verb or a noun. So you can see that a dangling modifier it creates a lot of confusion in the sentence, and sometimes a very comical mental image. In this sentence we have, "While walking across the street the bus hit her."

In this case the entire phrase "walking across the street" is functioning as a modifier phrase or clause, it's describing what comes next. In this case though what comes next is "the bus." So technically the phrase "while walking across the street" is describing the bus, and we get the mental image of a bus walking across the street. Which of course is not what we meant to say. So the way that you fix this dangling modifier is just with a slight rewrite.

Now the sentence reads, "While walking across the street she stepped in front of the bus." You can see with this new construction the phrase "while walking across the street" is now clearly modifying the word "she" which is what we intended, and we've also done some retooling to make sure that our sentence is written in an active voice so she wasn't hit by the bus, she stepped in front of the bus. I hope that this example will help you avoid the dreaded dangling modifier in your own writing.

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