Why Grammar is Necessary for Clarity – Part 4 – Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers
Perhaps the most famous misplaced modifier is a joke (see disclaimer below!) told by Groucho Marx:
“This morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.”
Quite aside from the misplaced modifier, I have to say that – to modern ears – this joke actually seems in bad taste considering the horrors of elephant poaching, trophy hunting, etc. As an animal lover, I’ve therefore devised a more sensitive version:
The wildlife safari I recently took in Kenya was amazing. Early one morning I filmed an elephant in my pajamas.
Less offensive but still offering amusement due to the placing of the modifier. To fix this sentence we could say:
The wildlife safari I recently took in Kenya was amazing. I filmed an elephant early one morning, while I was still in my pajamas.
We now have clarity!
Similarly, dangling modifiers appear to be modifying the wrong noun, therefore creating a sentence that makes no sense.
Feeling tired after an exhausting week, the long drive home was challenging.
Was the ‘long drive’ feeling tired? Fix dangling modifiers like this:
Feeling tired after an exhausting week, Sarah found the long drive home challenging.