7 Dos for Dangling Modifiers
In each of the sentences below, the noun phrase immediately following the introductory phrase is not the referent for that phrase; you have to keep working through the sentence and locate another noun, or, sometimes, surgically separate a “(noun)’s (noun)” phrase to isolate the correct one.
1. “If asked what will reverse the trend, my first response would be cynical but probably accurate.”
In this sentence, “my first response” is being asked a question. The person, not their response, is the target of the query. In this case, introduce a subject into the introductory phrase: “If I were asked what will reverse the trend, my first response would be cynical but probably accurate.”
2. “Seen mainly as the brainchild of frontman Jack White, the band’s breakthrough came at the start of the new millennium.”
The band’s breakthrough, rather than the band itself, is identified as the brainchild. Here, introduce the subject, follow with the introductory phrase as a parenthesis, and conclude by referring to the details of the breakthrough: “The breakthrough for the band, seen mainly as the brainchild of frontman Jack White, came at the start of the new millennium.”
3. “For a representative of a country that is one of the United States’s most important allies in Asia, her language is notably candid.”
This sentence suffers from an almost identical problem, except that, instead of a noun with a possessive, it features a possessive pronoun: The solution, however, is different: Convert the possessive pronoun to an ordinary one and attach a pertinent verb: “For a representative of a country that is one of the United States’s most important allies in Asia, she used language that is notably candid.”
4. “As a longtime holiday city, hotel options range widely in Luna Azul.”
This sentence identifies “hotel options,” not “Luna Azul,” the longtime holiday city. To correct this error, reverse the order of these phrases and revise the intervening wording: “As a longtime holiday city, Luna Azul features a wide range of hotel options.”
5. “Created in 1972 by the United Nations to stimulate awareness of the environment, San Francisco will be the first North American city to host World Environment Day.”
According to this sentence, San Francisco was created by the United Nations in 1972: Depending on the emphasis, start with the city’s name as the subject or recast the sentence to emphasize the observance: “San Francisco will be the first North American city to host”; “World Environment Day, created in 1972 by the United Nations to stimulate awareness of the environment, will be celebrated in San Francisco, the first North American city to host the festivities.”
6. “Clearly organized, each tree receives its own entry in the book that includes its cultivation requirements, uses in its native land, historical anecdotes, and more.”
Here, the writer credits each tree with being clearly organized, but the book is the subject, so make it the subject: “The book is clearly organized, and each tree receives its own entry, which includes its cultivation requirements, uses in its native land, historical anecdotes, and more.”
7. “Based on a play, you can see its theatrical, neatly formed vignettes unfolding right in front of you.”
Art imitates life, and vice versa, but to my knowledge, I’m not based on a play: But it — in this case, a movie — is: “It’s based on a play, and you can see its theatrical, neatly formed vignettes unfolding right in front of you.”
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