In each of the following sentences, a phrase that is intended to modify the core of the sentence is treated as if it is associated with the subject, but a flaw in the sentence construction leaves the modifier dangling, hence the phrase denoting this type of error. Discussion after each example points out the problem, and revisions demonstrate the solution.
1. We’ll give you more detailed information before making your application.
This sentence is intended to assure the reader that helpful information will be provided before he or she completes an application, but the wording implies that “we,” the entity sending the information, will complete the application for the reader. The statement should therefore be revised to explicitly express the intended idea: “We’ll give you more detailed information before you make your application.”
2. The suspect entered the apartment via an unlocked balcony door and confronted three female tenants while sleeping.
Here, the implication is that the suspect was sleepwalking. But the tenants, not the suspect, were asleep during the incident, and as in the previous example, a pronoun—one alluding to the former rather than the latter—as well as a helpful verb, must be inserted: “The suspect entered the apartment via an unlocked balcony door and confronted three female tenants while they were sleeping.”
3. When delivered in a fresh, artistic way, children will seize on writing as they do art and drawing.
It is writing (more accurately, writing instruction), not children, that is being delivered in the manner described, and the sentence construction must convey this idea: “When delivered in a fresh, artistic way, writing will be seized on by children as eagerly as art and drawing.” Alternatively, to maintain active voice, writing can be relocated to the introductory modifying phrase and its original instance replaced with a pronoun: “When writing is delivered in a fresh, artistic way, children will seize on it as they do art and drawing.”
Click here to view three more cases of dangling modifiers.