How to avoid and correct dangling modifiers
Dangling modifiers are amongst the most difficult grammatical errors for any writer to avoid. We all follow trains of thought when we are writing and will be anxious not to omit any of our ideas from our copy. In our haste to keep up with our own brains, we write sentences which are less than perfect. Prevention is better than cure and so its usually pays to slow down if you want to eliminate those confusing danglers.
It’s easy to allow dangling modifiers to creep into your work. To make matters worse, it’s just as easy to miss those danglers when you are checking what you have written. This is because you understand the context of your words and you know what you meant to say. You will tend to read what you are expecting to see when you are proofreading your own words.
Any ambiguities in your texts will be far less obvious to you than to those who later read your copy. For this reason, it is best that someone else proofreads your texts. Of course, this isn’t always possible.
If you are proofreading your own work and are on the hunt for danglers, it can help to read your words aloud. Consider each sentence in turn and ensure that it features a subject. Check that any modifiers you have included are not divorced from the word or phrase that you intended them to modify. After perusing the individual sentences, read each paragraph in its entirety. Sometimes sentences make sense in isolation but the resulting paragraph is problematic.
A word to the wise
This form of double-checking should reveal most grammatical errors including those illusive dangling modifiers. Always remember that just because you know what you mean, your readers may not!