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The case of the dangling modifier

What do we know of the dangling modifier?

Well, their no-strings-attached attitude creates confusion. And I reckon they’re spreading. They’ve certainly infiltrated the BBC: “Having just got out of prison, I caught up with Evegeny Lebedev in Italy*,” declared a presenter on the Media Show just now.

Wikipedia says – slightly sniffily, in my view – that dangling modifiers (DMs) are “often considered an error in prescriptivist accounts of English.”

Harrumph! Call me old-fashioned, but I like a few rules  in my language . Sorry, normative practices in my syntax. Because they usually serve a purpose.

For most grammarians, the obsession with contraventions like DMs isn’t about wanting a stick to bash people with.  It’s the noble pursuit of truth, accountability and clarity, in a foggy world where things may or may not mean what they seem.

So I’m on DM watch, and will be reporting  my findings from time to time here in Horsefeathers. Maybe nobody will see it, but hah, it’ll be a tiny win for prescriptivism.


* Here’s a version with subject and modifier reunited: “After getting out of prison Evegeny Lebvedev went to Italy, where I caught up with him.”