Dangling Modifier

A few weeks ago, I heard this ad on the radio:

Like most Americans, your bills are probably keeping you awake at night.

Take a good look at this sentence. Notice that unless your bills possess a kind of magic that empowers them to yell at you or shake you when you are trying to sleep, they are not keeping you awake. It’s worrying that’s keeping you awake.

There’s another problem, too. The ad compares “most Americans” to “your bills.” That’s nonsense, because most Americans certainly are not like your bills–or mine, either.

In the Copyeditor’s Handook, author Amy Einsohn explains why:

[When a sentence begins with a modifying phrase], the noun that heads the second clause must be the element that is being modified by the phrase in the first clause.

Here’s how to fix the dangling modifier:

Like most Americans, you probably lie awake at night worrying about your bills.

Another option is to turn the introductory modifying phrase into a dependent clause:

If you’re like most Americans, worrying about your bills is probably keeping you awake at night.

Cheers,

Tara Treasurefield
Tara’s Writing Studio

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About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
This entry was posted in clear thinking, dangling modifier, parts of speech. Bookmark the permalink.

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