A Dangling Modifier

The New Yorker is a magazine that takes pride in its copyediting. They do an excellent job – but mistakes still creep in now and then.

And that’s what happened in a recent article about a veteran who suffers from PTSD: “In the Crossfire.” Read the sentence below to see if you can figure out what’s wrong and – more important – how to fix it:

There was the time in Ramadi that he shot two insurgents who were riding tandem on a moped with a single bullet.

Here’s the problem: The sentence sounds as if the two insurgents were riding with a bullet. The phrase “with a single bullet” needs to be placed next to “he shot.”

This mistake is called a dangling modifier. (It’s called “dangling” because a phrase is hanging in the wrong place; “modifier” because we’re talking about a description – with a single bullet.)

Let’s fix it:

 There was the time in Ramadi that he used a single bullet to shoot two insurgents who were riding tandem on a moped.  CORRECT

 Problem solved!

Bullet

 

 

 

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