Dangling modifiers … it’s one of those terms editors seemingly toss around arbitrarily, accompanied by a command to correct the offending phrases. Well, of course, nobody wants their modifiers — or any other grammatical part — to dangle. But what on earth does that mean?
Modifiers are descriptive words, phrases or clauses. When the noun they’re describing is missing or unclear, they dangle. Modifiers can also be misplaced, which is a different kind of problem — and one we’ll talk about in next week’s post.
Most danglers are participles (verb forms used as adjectives) — either present (ending in ing) or past (usually ending in ed) — although gerunds (nouns made from verbs by adding -ing) can dangle too.