What is a dangling modifier?

You may have heard about dangling modifiers, or someone may have told you that you use them in your writing. But just what is a dangling modifier?

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes (or modifies) another word or phrase. For example, in the phrase ‘the red car’, the modifier is the word ‘red’. In well-written text, modifiers are placed close to or right next to the word or phrase they modify. A dangling modifier occurs when a modifier is placed in the wrong part of a sentence or text is left out of a sentence, leading to confusion or a different meaning altogether.

Incorrect: Breathing heavily, the race was finished. (Here, we don’t know who was breathing heavily when they finished the race.)
Correct: Breathing heavily, the runner finished the race.

Incorrect: Red and sleek, Jessica loved her new car. (In this sentence, it sounds like Jessica is red and sleek instead of the car.)
Correct: Jessica loved her sleek, red new car.

Incorrect: The student glanced at the teacher who called his name quickly. (Here, the sentence means that the teacher called the student’s name quickly.)
Correct: The student quickly glanced at the teacher who called his name.

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