3 Modifiers Left Dangling Without a Supporting Subject

By Mark Nichol

An introductory phrase intended to modify the subject of a sentence is said to be left hanging when the main clause it precedes begins with a reference to a noun that is not the subject of the sentence—hence the label “dangling modifier.” In each of the sentences below, the subject is faulty; the paragraph following each discusses the problem, and a revision remedies it.

1. By automating the process, the accuracy of the transactional data is easier to verify.

This sentence implies that accuracy is automating the process, but the actual actor is hidden by the dangling modifier. In order for that introductory phrase to work, the subject must refer to who or what is doing the automating, and the rest of the sentence must be revised accordingly: “By automating the process, a company can more easily verify the accuracy of the transactional data.”

2. With an attention span as short as eight seconds and an inclination to multitask between three to five screens, communicating with young employees continues to be a struggle.

Here, the act of communicating with young employees has been assigned a short attention span and a propensity for multitasking. The sentence must be revised to clearly indicate that it is the young employees themselves who have those characteristics: “Communicating with young employees, who have an attention span as short as eight seconds and an inclination to multitask between three to five screens, continues to be a struggle.”

3. Unlike our many advancements you have applauded, we have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our customer base does not want.

This statement compares “we” with the “we” entity’s many applauded advancements, but the counterpoint of the reference to these advancements must be a mention, if only as a pronoun, of the unfortunate advancement the customer base has not supported: “Unlike our many advancements you have applauded, this is a concept our customer base has stated loud and clear that it does not want.”

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2 Responses to “3 Modifiers Left Dangling Without a Supporting Subject”

  • Precise Edit

    You have applauded our many accomplishments, but we have heard loud and clear….

    Or, assuming that this is written to customers:

    Although you have praised our many accomplishments, you have stated….

    On the other hand, the sentence is altogether a mess. For example, How does one hear loudly?

  • Thebluebird11

    I understand what the sentences mean (in other words, I understand what the author is trying to say) but they are so clunky and kind of disjointed. In conversation, people tend to speak a bit faster than they can compose a grammatically correct sentence, so it’s understandable that things don’t always come out correct. But with the written word, people have all the time in the world to make sure things are correct. So I assume that they are just not paying attention and making sure that the second part of their thought smoothly follows the first part.

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