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I'm concerned that I'm developing a hypersensitivity to dangling modifiers, even if they don't dangle very much.

For context, I have the following sentence:

"From the edge of the rice paddy, Richard watched a man he did not recognize drag a woman he did through the water by her hair."

Stacking prepositional phrases like "through the water" and "by her hair" seems likely to lead to dangling modifiers (i.e., is the water by her hair, or was she dragged by her hair?), but, as I wrote, I suspect I'm overly sensitive to dangling modifiers.

My question is: "If the meaning of the sentence is clear, is the modifier dangling?"

I can think of a couple of different ways to make this sentence more "clear", like

-"From the edge of the rice paddy, Richard watched a man he did not recognize drag a woman he did by her hair and through the water." (I like this one the best, but the construction seems formal)

-"From the edge of the rice paddy, Richard watched a man he did not recognize drag a woman he did by her hair through the water."

-"From the edge of the rice paddy, Richard watched a man he did not recognize drag a woman he did through the water. He dragged her by the hair."

How would you handle this?

closed as unclear what you're asking by FumbleFingers, AndyT, Edwin Ashworth, Scott, David Sep 22 '17 at 8:01

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    The original conveys what you intended. – Lawrence Sep 21 '17 at 14:38
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    There has already been a post on ELU in which an article by G Pullum, if I remember correctly, says that dangling modifiers are only of real concern if they lead to actual ambiguity (not an unwanted reading having a 0.01% probability of being the intended one). This makes "If the meaning of the sentence is clear, is the modifier dangling?" irrelevant; the only question worth asking is "Is the meaning clear?" / "From the edge of the rice paddy, Richard watched a man he did not recognize drag a woman he did by her hair and through the water." is ... – Edwin Ashworth Sep 21 '17 at 14:38
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    very poor style if not downright ungrammatical. Your original is fine. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 21 '17 at 14:41
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    @EdwinAshworth Is this the post you were referring to? – Lawrence Sep 21 '17 at 14:48
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    @Lawrence It looks familiar. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 21 '17 at 14:51
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"From the edge of the rice paddy, Richard watched a man drag a woman by her hair through the water. He recognized the woman, but not the man."

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