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Untangling That Dangling Modifier

Like a yokel at a party of snobs, the dangling modifier looks so uncomfortable. He’s out of place and doesn’t know how to get the heck out of there. Most of us have been in such a situation. I know I have, realizing only too late that I didn’t belong there.

Let’s help this misfit find his rightful place in the grammar society. It’s not hard to find him. He’s in newspapers, magazines –

Walking modifier

Hanging around in rough weather

Aha! Here’s one now – an Orlando, Florida, Realtor expounding on the havoc wrought by the state’s violent thunderstorms: “Years later, as a Realtor, this weather has come to personally affect my clients and me.”

That’s odd. I didn’t realize weather was a Realtor: “… as a Realtor, this weather.”  Okay, so much for the sarcasm. What the writer meant to say was: “Years later, as a Realtor, I, along with my clients, have become personally affected by this weather.” Or, to retain the active voice: “Years later, after I’d become a Realtor, this weather came to personally affect my clients and me.”


Trump that!


Decrying the ubiquitous, deceptive advertorial format of print advertising, a former newspaper reporter wrote this in a letter to the editor: “As a journalism school graduate, the increase in this practice grates with me, too.”

Unjustified juxtaposition

Bet you never knew the increase in advertorials and “a journalism school graduate” were one and the same. I didn’t either, but that’s what it reads: “As a journalism graduate, the increase … .” Ah, but maybe she meant: “As a journalism school graduate, I, too, find the increase in this practice grating.”

Even a well-known professor of economics and business isn’t immune from the dangling modifier. Here’s Peter Morici of the University of Maryland on the subject of Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving: “Growing up in New York and near some of the nation’s busiest shopping malls, Thanksgiving was for …”

 A Morici miscue


Peter Morici


Actually, Thanksgiving grew up in New England – remember the Pilgrims? – and certainly not around any shopping malls, which sprung up a while later, by about 3 ½ centuries. So what did Morici mean? “Growing up in New York and near some of the nation’s busiest shopping malls, I experienced Thanksgiving as a day for … .”

Ya gotta connect the modifier with the modifi-ee. Otherwise, you’re faced with the same predicament enunciated by the chain-gang guard in Cool Hand Luke: “What we got here is a failure to communicate.”


#Danglingmodifier #Thanksgiving #CoolHandLuke #PeterMorici #activevoice

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