So what is a dangling modifier? This is a grammatical mistake that occurs when a word or phrase modifies (describes, gives details about) the wrong word or no word at all.
The easiest way to understand a dangling modifier is to see some examples:
While running from the crime scene, the police shot the armed robber.
The underlined phrase in this sentence is modifying “the police." However, it was not the police who were running from the scene. It was the robber who was fleeing the crime.
An artist who was not successful during his lifetime, people all over the world revere the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh today.
You expect a modifier to directly proceed the word or phrase it is modifying. The underlined modifier in this sentence is describing “people" rather than what it means to modify, “Vincent Van Gogh."
Having turned in her paper after the deadline, a written excuse from her parents was needed before the teacher would accept the essay.
Here, the sentence does not make sense because the reader does not know who has written the paper and turned it in late. It is unclear what the underlined phrase is meant to modify.
Cost effective and convenient, many universities are using graduate assistants to teach freshman and sophomore courses.
The underlined modifier of “cost effective and convenient" seems to be describing “many universities." However, it is actually the “teaching assistants" who are cost effective and convenient.
When only four years old, my father died in an auto accident.
It is obvious that the father could not have been four years old when he died. The underlined modifier is missing a subject and a verb.