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Dangling Phrases and Clauses

When phrases or clauses are misplaced in a sentence, such that they don’t agree with the subject, sometimes funny or even embarrassing meanings and images will result. Danglers are difficult for us to spot when we write them because we can’t always see that what we have written is not what we meant to express.

Example: While walking across the street, the bus hit her.
Did the bus really walk across the street?

Correction: While she was walking across the street, the bus hit her. OR
The bus hit her while she was walking across the street.

Example: I have some pound cake that Mollie baked in my lunch bag.
Did Mollie actually bake the pound cake in my lunch bag?

Correction: In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake that Mollie baked.

Now that you are alerted to danglers, perhaps you will be able to appreciate some of the bloopers below even more. Thank you to Hu O. for sending these.

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
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The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”
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Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
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Don’t let worry kill you off–let the Church help.
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Miss Charlene Mason sang “I Will Not Pass This Way Again” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
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For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
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Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
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Irving B. and Jessie C. were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
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At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.
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Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
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Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2008, at 5:35 pm


7 Comments

7 Responses to “Dangling Phrases and Clauses”

  1. Tyson Wade says:

    Great videos- thanks for sharing these.

  2. Buddy says:

    The second example is wrote, “I have some pound cake that Mollie baked in my lunch bag.” The object “pound cake” is adequately identified and thus does not require the adjective clause “Mollie baked,” so should not the aforementioned sentence be wrote, “I have some pound cake, which Mollie baked, in my lunch bag”?

    • Jane says:

      The example that you cited is an example of a grammatically incorrect sentence. The point of the blog Dangling Phrases and Clauses is to alert our readers to misplaced phrases and clauses that change the meaning of the sentence. In the grammatically incorrect sentence, it sounds like Mollie baked the cake in the lunch bag. As the blog states, the grammatically correct sentence would be written “In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake that Mollie baked.” The comma in the sentence is consistent with our Rule 10 which states, “Use a comma after phrases of more than three words that begin a sentence.”

  3. Buddy says:

    Again, “Mollie baked” seems additional and thus nonessential; therefore, why is the sentence not wrote, “In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake, which Mollie baked”?

    Also, the word wrote in your question should be written.

    • Jane says:

      Our blog That vs. Which addresses this issue in more detail. Rule 3 in the blog states, “That introduces essential clauses while which introduces nonessential clauses.” It goes on to note that “Essential clauses do not have commas surrounding them while nonessential clauses are surrounded by commas.” In some cases, it is up to the author of the sentence to determine whether the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. In my example sentence, “In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake that Mollie baked,” I have determined that the clause that Mollie baked is essential to the meaning of my sentence because I want people to know Mollie baked it–not someone else, not a bakery. Therefore, I used the word that and I did not use a comma. Since you used the word which and added the comma, you are implying that the fact that Mollie baked the pound cake is not essential to the meaning of your sentence.

  4. Andy M. says:

    Rule 7

    Place modifiers near the words they modify.

    Incorrect:
    I have some pound cake Mollie baked in my lunch bag.

    Correct:
    In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake that Mollie baked.

    Is the point of this sentence that the cake was made by Mollie and nobody else, or should it have been

    “In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake which Mollie baked.”?

    Or did I get that wrong?

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