What is wrong with these sentences?
1. Running along the pavement, the mountains provided a glorious scenic background.
2. To eat ice cream in a cone, the ice cream must be somewhat still frozen.
3. At the age of two, my father moved us to Lafayette, Indiana.
4. Out of shape and overweight, the doctor says that Aunt Ruth needs to eat less and exercise more.
5. Spiraling through the air, the quarterback threw a touchdown pass to win the game.
6. Leaping like a gazelle, the crowd watched the halfback evade tacklers all the way to the end zone.
English is a funny language, whether we intend for the sentences we write to be funny (or not). Dangling sentences, where adverbs or adjectives are attached to the wrong things, occur most frequently when those adverbial or adjectival modifiers are at the beginning of the sentence.
Adjectives and adverbs tend to want to be attached to the nearest noun available, and sometimes (if we’re not paying attention) we get it all wrong.
In #1 above, the mountains are not running along the pavement. That would be quite a sight, indeed.
Correction: As we ran along the pavement, the mountains provided a glorious scenic background.
In #2 above, the ice cream is not going to eat ice cream in a cone. That would be kind of weird (and maybe cannibalistic on the ice cream’s part).
Correction: To eat ice cream in a cone, you want the ice cream to be somewhat still frozen. Or maybe even better is this: If you want to eat ice cream in a cone, the ice cream must be somewhat still frozen.
In #3 above, my father was not two years old when he moved us to Lafayette.
Correction: When I was two years old, my father moved us to Lafayette, Indiana.
In #4 above, perhaps the doctor is indeed out of shape and overweight. That’s how it comes across.
Correction: The doctor says that Aunt Ruth, out of shape and overweight, needs to eat less and exercise more.
In #5 above, that would be quite an athlete who could throw a touchdown pass while he is spiraling through the air.
Correction: Spiraling through the air, the quarterback’s touchdown pass won the game.
In #6 above, it is unlikely that the crowd leaped like a gazelle.
Correction: Leaping like a gazelle, the halfback evaded tacklers all the way to the end zone.
Generally, we can probably figure out the meaning of the sentence. Still, we should strive for accuracy. Don’t laugh too loudly at the next dangling error you hear. Your turn is coming.