How can you avoid dangling modifiers?

This page reflects guidance from the sixth edition of the Publication Manual.

For the most current guidelines, see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) and our Style and Grammar Guidelines page for the seventh edition.

Dangling modifiers have no referent in the sentence. Because of their placement in a sentence, misplaced modifiers ambiguously or illogically modify a word. You can eliminate misplaced modifiers by placing an adjective or an adverb as close as possible to the word it modifies.

  • Correct: Based on this assumption, the model…
    Incorrect: Based on this assumption, I developed a model…
    Comment: [The model, not I, was based on this assumption.]

Many dangling modifiers also result from the use of the passive voice. By writing in the active voice, you can avoid many dangling modifiers.

  • Correct: After separating the participants into groups, I tested Group A.
    Incorrect: After separating the participants into groups, Group A was tested.
    Comment: [I, not Group A, separated the participants into groups.]
  • Correct: Using this procedure, I tested the participants.
    Incorrect: The participants were tested using this procedure.
    Comment: [I, not the participants, used the procedure.]
  • Correct: To test this hypothesis, we divided the participants into two groups.
    Incorrect: To test this hypothesis, the participants were divided into two groups.
    Comment: [We, not the participants, tested the hypothesis.]

(adapted from the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, © 2010)

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