Misplaced, Dangling and Squinting Modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes or adds details to a sentence. In the below examples, the modifiers are italicized.

  • I went through all the stores yesterday, looking for the perfect gift.
  • While walking on the sand, she removed her slippers.

One should place modifiers carefully so that the reader understands what is being modified. Writers, generally, make three types of modifier mistakes: misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.


Misplaced modifier: 

A misplaced modifier is a wrongly placed modifier that makes the subject of the modifier unclear. The reader may not be sure of the word the modifier is describing or may think of a different word being described instead of the intended one. Consider the below examples:

INCORRECT: The man walked towards the building carrying a box.

In this sentence, the building is carrying a box, which is illogical.

REVISED: The man carrying a box walked towards the building.

INCORRECT: We returned the packets to the store that was new.

REVISED: We returned the new packets to the store.

INCORRECT: She served biscuits to the children on paper plates.

REVISED: She served biscuits on paper plates to the children.

Dangling modifier:

When a modifier improperly modifies something in a sentence, it is called a dangling modifier. It is often located in the beginning or at the end of a sentence. The error may occur because the modifier has nothing to refer or is placed next to the wrong noun that it does not modify. Consider the following examples:

INCORRECT: To improve his outcomes, the analysis was done again.

Who wanted to improve outcomes? This sentence indicates that the analysis wants to improve its own outcomes.

REVISED: He improved his outcomes by doing the analysis again or

To improve his outcomes, he performed the analysis again.

INCORRECT: After reviewing the research article, it remains unconvincing.

REVISED: After reviewing the research article, I find the article unconvincing.

INCORRECT: When ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

REVISED: When I was ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

Squinting modifier:

squinting modifier may describe two situations, i.e., either the word before it or the word after it. In other words, it is an ambiguously placed modifier. Consider the below example:

INCORRECT: I told my daughter after she completed her homework we would play together.

The above sentence is not clear.

Does it mean that I told my daughter after she completed her homework? Does it mean that we would play together after she completed her homework?

REVISED: After she had completed her homework, I told my daughter we would play together. Or, I told my daughter we would play together after she completed her homework.