|Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers|
So what's the difference between misplaced and dangling modifiers? A misplaced modifier is one that is in the wrong position in the sentence and can thus lead to ambiguity. A dangling modifier often appears at the beginning of a sentence and bears an unclear relationship to the text that follows.
The general principle that people in your organization should remember is, always put a modifier as close as possible to the thing it modifies.
An example of a misplaced modifier from a document I recently read: "Mr. Smith stated that a return on equity of 22 percent was unreasonably high on page 6 of his report."
The misplaced phrase, "on page 6 of his report," modifies the verb "stated," so the sentence can be corrected by placing these two elements next to each other: "Mr. Smith stated on page 6 of his report that a return on equity of 22 percent was unreasonably high."
An example of a dangling modifier might be: "Tripping down the stairs, his drink spilled all over the hostess." His drink, however, did not trip down the stairs.
In this example, "tripping down the stairs" modifies, not the drink, but the person. Consequently, one simple way to correct the error is to say, "Tripping down the stairs, he spilled his drink all over the hostess."
Another way to correct this error is to change the participial phrase to a dependent clause by adding a subject and turning the participle into a verb - "As he tripped down the stairs, his drink spilled all over the hostess." In this case the "he" goes with "tripped," and there is no possibility for confusion.
A further example might be: "Tired from a hard day at work, the dog's barking annoyed him." Again, "tired from a hard day at work" modifies, not the dog's barking, but the person. Hence, we can correct the error by saying: "Tired from a hard day at work, he was annoyed by the dog's barking." We could also say: "Because he was tired from a hard day at work, the dog's barking annoyed him."
Attention to common errors like misplaced modifiers enables the reader to understand our message more easily. The less time the reader has to spend figuring out what we're saying, the more likely we are to achieve our purpose.