Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is your modifier dangling?

The subject for this post came to mind when I remembered Groucho Marx saying, "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don't know."

A dangling modifier is an error in sentence structure whereby a grammatical modifier is associated with a word other than the one intended, or with no particular word at all. For example, a writer may have meant to modify the subject, but word order makes the modifier seem to modify an object instead. Such ambiguities can lead to unintentional humor or difficulty in understanding a sentence. Here are a few examples:

At the age of eight, my family finally bought a dog.
Walking down Main Street, the trees were beautiful.
As president of the kennel club, my poodle must be well groomed.
Screaming for help, David's fingers gripped the edge of the cliff.
After living under a pile of dust for thirty years, I found the documents.

We know what we're trying to say, but sometimes we just get a little confused and end up with something that may be a bit funnier than we intended. Of course, if you're writing humor, the dangling modifier may be your best friend.

Now it's your turn. Give us an example of your own. Just click on that Comment thing and type away.


  1. Terrific post! My writing partner Martina and I have gone through manuscripts looking for this very issue and it's a sneaky little fellow! Thanks so much!


  2. Hilarious, thanks so much for the post. I'll go check my manuscripts now.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.