Modifiers, Misplaced Modifiers, Dangling Modifiers


This part of speech, this word might be a little bit unfamiliar. But basically all a modifier is, is a word that gives information about another word.There are two main types of modifiers. Adjectives, which describe nouns, so you can see here, [reading from the slide], “Cathy is the company’s first female CEO,”

The word “female” describes the word “CEO”, so this is an adjective. And then adverbs, which describe verbs, adjectives, or other words. So for example, [reading from the slide], “Cathy recently accepted the CEO position.”

When did she accept it? “Recently.” She is “very eager.”

How eager is she? “very.” [Reading from the slide again], “To meet her staff and is meeting on Monday with all the managers.” And interestingly, adverbs can be more than one word. As you can see here, “on Monday.”

This phrase explains when she is meeting. It actually modifies the word “meeting”, so it counts as an adverb. I’m not going to spend too much time on modifiers, but I do want to talk about one very common error that I see in student papers. Just as you always want to be clear what noun your pronouns refer to, you always want to be clear what your modifiers are modifying. So let’s look at this example down here in this little tip box. [Reading from the slide]: “As a nurse, patients should be my main concern.” Now, the way this sentence is set up, it makes it look as though “patients” is the word being modified.

Now, the problem with that is patients are not a nurse, right? It’s a little bit confusing, so this is what’s called a misplaced modifier. So you just wanted to adjust the sentence a little bit to make it clear what word this phrase is actually modifying.

[Reading from the slide]: “As a nurse, I should mainly be concerned about patients.”

[Source: Walden University. ]

Misplaced Modifiers


When a modifier is not modifying the correct word, we would call that a misplaced modifier. So, here the original sentence is “The study that was extremely difficult was eventually published by a famous researcher.” This sentence correctly uses the modifier. In this sentence, the phrase “that was extremely difficult” is describing “the study”, and it’s important to the meaning of the sentence, which is why there are no commas around it–it’s necessary to fully understand the sentence. If those two parts of the sentence get separated, then the sentence might be a little bit confusing and may have a different meaning, so our second sentence is an example of a misplaced modifier.

So in the second example, “The study was eventually published by a famous researcher that was extremely difficult,” now it sounds like the researcher was extremely difficult and that’s not the original intention of the sentence because really it’s the study that was difficult, so this sentence has a misplaced modifier.

So you do have to be very careful when you’re using descriptive phrases and clauses that it is clear what they are describing in the sentence, or you may unintentionally be calling a researcher very difficult. So be sure to watch for misplaced modifiers, which can cause confusion in your sentences.

[Source: Walden University. ]

Dangling Modifiers


Dangling modifiers are where the main part of a description is disconnected from the description because the description is actually at the very beginning of the sentence. So, you may have a descriptive clause or phrase usually as an introduction and it’s set off by a comma, but then the very next word should be the main part of the description that is attached to it.

So, an example of a dangling modifier, where it’s not done correctly, is the following: “Racing across the finish line, her shoe fell off.” Well, who or what is racing across the finish line? Whoever that is, the very next word after that comma, after that phrase “Racing across the finish line,” should be the main part of that description. So, is her shoe racing across the finish line? It sounds like her shoes are just racing by themselves. That’s not quite what we want to communicate. The revision would be “Racing across the finish line, she lost her shoe” because “she” is the one that is racing across the finish line.

Dangling modifiers can be really entertaining if they’re done wrong, but they can be very misleading as far as communicating your ideas to your reader. So you want to be careful when you’re using descriptions that the main idea is always attached, even if it comes after the description, it needs to be right next to that descriptive phrase or clause.

[Source: Walden University. ]

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