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Misused Modifiers

Modifiers are usually phrases that contain a verb ending in -ing and modify the subject of the next part of the sentence. Modifiers are misused when they do not modify the subject, but another part of the sentence. Such mistakes are usually referred to as dangling modifiers.




  • Incorrect: Looking into the literature, some conclusions can be drawn.



"Looking into the literature" is the modifier and "some conclusions" is the subject.


This is an example of a misused modifier because the verb in it (i.e., “looking into”) does not refer to the subject of the next part of the sentence (i.e., “some conclusions”). Rather, the verb refers to the researcher(s) because they were looking into the literature and drew some conclusions. Therefore, the possible ways to fix this problem are:

1) to change the subject (from “some conclusions” to “I”, i.e., the researcher) or

2) to change the sentence structure




  • Correct: Looking into the literature, I can draw some conclusions.
  • Correct: Some conclusions can be drawn from a review of the literature.


Note: The use of the first person (I”) is not always acceptable in academic writing. In such cases, the second example would be a more suitable way to fix the problem with the modifier.



Osmond, A. (2016). Academic Writing and Grammar for Students. (2nd ed.). London: SAGE.