Dangling modifiers?

Subject: Dangling modifiers?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 11:58:22 -0500

Ellen Kelly wonders: <<What's the current thought on dangling modifers?>>

The same as it's always been: rewrite to avoid them. The problem with
danglers (including participles) is that they leave the meaning unclear at
best, and misleading at worst, and that's why they're wrong. That's also why
there's a rule against them in grammar: because they simply don't
communicate well.

<<Every time our VP edits my docs (we are a small company, I take whatever
edits I can get!) he marks up dangling modifiers.>>

>From the example you gave later in your note ("the documentation that I have
have added dangling modifers to"), this isn't actually a case of a dangling
modifier. I'll preface this by noting that my grammar module is mostly
off-line due to a cold, but it seems that what you're actually referring to
is a terminal "function word" (often a preposition; here, "to") rather than
an actual dangler.

That's a whole different question. Although by definition, a preposition
must come before (pre), modern usage has accepted such structures with nary
a twitch for many, many years--provided that the meaning remains clear and
that the overall sentence remains grammatical. In longer sentences, the
terminal preposition may grow so far from the clause that depends on it that
it becomes difficult to figure out its purpose. Thus, in many cases, the
sentence merits a rewrite. The standard rewrite in your case is "to which I
have added", and that's clearer and easier to parse.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe

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