How to Fix Dangling Modifiers in Academic Writing

Academic writing should be free of all errors and grammatical mistakes to ensure accuracy and professionalism. However, now and then, you come across an error while correcting your work that makes it all extremely difficult — dangling modifiers. What exactly are these, and how can you fix dangling modifiers so that your piece of academic work is perfect in all sense? Don’t worry, as we have the perfect guide to help you through it. In this article, we will cover how you can masterfully eliminate them.

10.01.2022

How to Fix Dangling Modifiers in Academic Writing

This guide discusses how to fix a dangling modifier in academic writing. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

Academic writing should be free of all errors and grammatical mistakes to ensure accuracy and professionalism. However, now and then, you come across an error while correcting your work that makes it all extremely difficult — dangling modifiers.

What exactly are these, and how can you fix dangling modifiers so that your piece of academic work is perfect in all sense? Don’t worry, as we have the perfect guide to help you through it. In this article, we will cover how you can masterfully eliminate them. Now, without further ado, let us get right into the topic.

What are dangling modifiers?

A dangling modifier is a grammatical error in which a modifier at the beginning of the sentence modifies the wrong phrase or word, thus creating a different meaning than what was intended. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly specified in the sentence. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.

For example, this sentence here — Dizzy from fever, the question paper did not make any sense. Here, dizzy from fever is the modifier that is modifying the immediate noun — the question paper. However, that is not the intended meaning of the sentence. The sentence here means that due to fever, the subject was not able to make any sense of their question paper. But because of the presence of the dangling modifier, it seems as if the question papers themselves are dizzy from fever.

There are many names for such modifiers, including dependent clauses, participial phrases, modifying phrases, and so on. No matter what names they carry, they all cause the same issue — modifying a word or phrase in the sentence that is not directly mentioned.

Here are some other examples of dangling modifiers:

  • Hungry and parched, my lunch was a great relief for my friends.

  • Sneaking through the garden, the sculpture scared her.

  • Raining constantly, my plan was delayed.

Identifying dangling modifiers

When you are writing for your academic work, dangling modifiers can be one of your biggest enemies. The reason is that academic works require you to write in a precise and clear format. Dangling modifiers here can make your writing confusing and inaccurate. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your work is free of any dangling modifiers.

Now that you have understood what dangling modifiers are, it is now time to master your skills of quickly spotting one. Usually, you pay attention to such errors during the proofreading and editing stages. Here is how you do it:

1. Check out each sentence

When you are proofreading, a great way to spot any dangling modifier is to read each sentence for itself. Instead of reading an entire paragraph all in one go, take your time to go through each line separately.

2. Determine the modifying noun

While you are proofreading and you come across a sentence that is divided by a comma, try reading the first phrase and understand which noun the modifier is trying to impact.

3. Check if the modifying noun is correct

Next, look for the modifying noun. Check if the first noun phrase after the modifier is the modifying noun and if the modifier is successfully affecting it.

How to fix a dangling modifier

Now that we have learned what a dangling modifier is and how you can locate one, it is time to get into the details of how you can fix a dangling modifier. Here is how to do it:

1. Try including the subject

Dangling modifiers occur when the main subject is missing from the sentence. Hence, a quick way to fix that is to include the subject itself. So, instead of Dizzy from fever, the question paper did not make any sense; the sentence can be written as — Dizzy from fever, I could not make any sense of the question paper.

2. Include a subject in the introductory phrase

Another way to go about handling dangling modifiers is to change the introductory phrase by including the subject there. This will also not affect the second half of the sentence if that is what you are aiming for. Therefore, Dizzy from fever, the question paper did not make any sense becomes — Because I was so dizzy from fever, the question paper did not make any sense.

3. Play around with the arrangement of the sentence

Lastly, you can always rearrange the sentence to eliminate any dangling modifiers. So, Dizzy from fever, the question paper did not make any sense will become — The question paper did not make any sense to me because I was dizzy from fever.

Conclusion

Dangling modifiers can be a bit of a problem when you are writing for an academic paper. However, it is not an impossible hurdle and can easily be overcome by sound proofreading and editing. Therefore, if you are skeptical about any dangling modifiers in your work, make sure to edit and proofread thoroughly. You can also rely on professional editing and proofreading services to give you the extra bit of advantage.

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