I understand that dangling modifiers are viewed as improper, but are they completely wrong? I'll use an example I saw in a video:

Flashing lightning and thunder, the bunny struggled through the storm.

Now, obviously this sentence can be ambiguous (is the bunny flashing lightning and thunder?), but I feel as if the vast majority of native speakers would understand the intention of the sentence is not to say this unless the bunny has already been revealed to have magical powers.

It seems as if it could be used even if it is ambiguous.

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, curiousdannii, Helmar, user66974, Rory Alsop Oct 23 '16 at 8:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    There is no such thing as “technically correct” in semantics and grammar: they’re not technology. Dangling modifiers are a problem because their ambiguity is potentially misleading; but how would you propose to label them as ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ in any meaningfully technical way? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 16 '16 at 14:50
  • 1
    By "completely wrong" and "incorrect" do you mean ungrammatical? If not, just what do you mean? Likewise, "could be used". No, they are not ungrammatical. And yes, they can be used. And yes, sometimes the result can be ambiguous. And yes, some people consider their use bad style. – Drew Oct 16 '16 at 14:50
  • 4
    I assume you're asking about grammaticality. "Flashing lightning and thunder, the bunny struggled through the storm" is grammatical on the reading in which the modifier modifies "the bunny." It is probably ungrammatical when it is taken to modify something else, for example, "the sky". A modifier cannot be used unless the thing it is modifying is present in the sentence. – GoldenGremlin Oct 16 '16 at 14:51
  • 3
    @Silenus: That's not quite true of all modifiers; quite often they can convert into nouns, like the rich. But the principle is certainly correct for anaphora (pronouns and the like) -- anaphors must refer to nouns actually in the discourse, not to nouns one could infer from the context. Thus, one can't say Bill is an orphan, and he misses them, where them refers to Bill's parents. They are not in the discourse, though they are presupposed, so they can't be referred to by pronouns. This phenomena is called "Anaphoric Islands" in the trade, from a famous paper by Paul Postal. – John Lawler Oct 16 '16 at 14:56
  • 2
    The bunny struggled through the flashing lightning and thunder of the storm would be valid enough, but OP's example doesn't even look like a potentially forgivable "dangling modifier" to me - it's just a hopelessly misplaced noun phrase. – FumbleFingers Oct 16 '16 at 15:29

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.