Suggest improvements for the highlighted problem area:
The Mississippi River carries more silt than any other river does. Standing on the delta, the river slowly deposits some of this silt in the salty marshes. Thirty tons of silt arrive each second. When thoroughly laden, you can see the river choke the marshes with mud.
As the muddy delta grows, the river seeks a new path to the Gulf of Mexico often. The Mississippi has had seven deltas during the past five thousand years. The delta, therefore, is a collection basin for silt that is always changing.
- The Dangling Modifier -
Good writing takes full advantage of expressive adjectives and adverbs. Words or phrases that act as adjectives and adverbs are called modifiers. Problems arise, however, when our modifiers confuse our readers. One way this happens is shown in our opening paragraph:
Standing on the delta, the river slowly deposits some of this silt in the salty marshes.
The reader expects to be told who is doing the standing. Is it the river? the silt? the marches? Obviously not. The author must mean a person, such as the reader. If you were standing on the delta, you would see the river slowly deposit silt. By not being explicit, the author has left the modifier dangling, with no tangible connection to the thing being modified. Thus we call it a dangling modifier. One way to fix a dangling modifier is to insert the thing being modified.
Standing on the delta, you can see the river slowly deposits some of this silt in the salty marshes.
In our writing we should be careful to place each modifier close to the thing being modified . If, while editing, you cannot find a word that the modifier refers to, you have a dangling modifier. Always try to rewrite such a sentence. Insert the thing being modified or rewrite the modifier as a complete clause:
As you can see by standing on the delta, the river slowly deposits some of this silt in the salty marshes.