How can you avoid dangling modifiers?

Dangling modifiers have no referent in the sentence. Because of their placement in a sentence, misplaced modifiers ambiguously or illogically modify a word. You can eliminate misplaced modifiers by placing an adjective or an adverb as close as possible to the word it modifies.

  • Correct: Based on this assumption, the model…
    Incorrect: Based on this assumption, I developed a model…
    Comment: [The model, not I, was based on this assumption.]

Many dangling modifiers also result from the use of the passive voice. By writing in the active voice, you can avoid many dangling modifiers.

  • Correct: After separating the participants into groups, I tested Group A.
    Incorrect: After separating the participants into groups, Group A was tested.
    Comment: [I, not Group A, separated the participants into groups.]
  • Correct: Using this procedure, I tested the participants.
    Incorrect: The participants were tested using this procedure.
    Comment: [I, not the participants, used the procedure.]
  • Correct: To test this hypothesis, we divided the participants into two groups.
    Incorrect: To test this hypothesis, the participants were divided into two groups.
    Comment: [We, not the participants, tested the hypothesis.]

(adapted from the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, © 2010)

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