Who’s refereeing dangling modifiers during football season? 🏈

NFL referees may know the rules of football, but they clearly need to up their grammar game.

If you’re a football fan, you’re likely familiar with the phrase, “After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field stands.” And if you’re not, we’ll catch you up: When NFL referees watch replay video to determine whether a judgment about the result of a play was correct, they make an announcement afterward about the final decision. If they agree with the original call, they often say, “After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field stands.”

This is a high-profile example of what’s known as a dangling modifier, which is when a sentence begins with an adjectival modifier but the subject of that modifier is misplaced in the sentence or simply isn’t there at all. In our NFL example, it’s not there, and here’s what the refs could say if they wanted to stick to the English language playbook:

Screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: Dangling modifiers are a common mistake in both writing and speaking. If you've ever watched an NFL game, you've likely heard one: "After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field stands." That is incorrect because "the ruling" did not review the play. The correct construction is: "After reviewing the play, the officials have determined that the ruling on the field stands." (Clunky, perhaps, but correct!)

The trick to fixing this mistake is to watch for introductory clauses in sentences that don’t have a subject. For example, “Driving through the countryside, there were lots of farms.” Then, make sure the subject that you are modifying immediately follows the comma: “Driving through the countryside, we saw lots of farms.”

Reading this post, you learned something (we hope). What’s another common example of a dangling modifier? Hit reply and share it with us.

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