Dangling Modifiers Can Be Funny

These examples come from Maxwell Nurnberg’s book Questions You Always Wanted to Ask About English (but were afraid to raise your hand). He got the examples from newspapers and magazines. In each set, one sentence is correctly written and the other should make you scratch your head:

1. After taking a test, the faculty panel accepted me as a candidate for a degree.

2. After I took a test, the faculty panel accepted me as candidate for a degree.

 

1. Being of fragile material, the jerseys worn by the boys on the football team are hard to keep intact.

2. Being of fragile material, the boys on the football team are having a hard time keeping their jerseys intact.

 

1.Hopping from one tired foot to the other, the crosstown bus finally came into view.

2. Hopping from one tired foot to the other, I finally saw the crosstown bus come into view.

Correct answers: 2,1, 2.

Here’s the rule: When you begin a sentence with an introductory clause, what immediately follows that clause must be the thing mentioned in that introduction. In the first set, the faculty panel did not take a test. In the next group, the boys on the football team were not of fragile material. In the last group, it’s not likely a bus would be hopping from one foot to another. If your grammar check program highlights an introductory clause, check to see if you are dangling that modifier. You want your readers to laugh at your writing only when you intend it.

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