Friday, September 2, 2016

Dangling Modifiers

(By Kathy Ide)

When you begin a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the subject of the sentence is what must be modified by that word or phrase. A “dangling modifier” is a phrase that does not clearly and sensibly modify the appropriate word.

EXAMPLE #1: Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the Mustang seemed to run better.

The subject of this sentence is “the Mustang.” The modifying phrase is “Changing the oil . . .” A Mustang cannot change its own oil. So you’d want to rewrite that as something like: “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Sandra found she got much better gas mileage.”

EXAMPLE #2: Walking to work, the eucalyptus trees reminded Lynette of Brandilyn Collins’s latest novel.

The subject of this sentence is “the eucalyptus trees.” The modifier is “Walking to work . . .” Eucalyptus trees don’t walk to work . . . not even in Brandilyn’s novels. So rewrite: “As Lynette walked to work, the eucalyptus trees reminded her of Eyes of Elisha.”

EXAMPLE #3: Slamming on the brakes, the car swerved off the road.

Unless you’re Stephen King, the car in your story probably didn’t slam on its own brakes. So: “Robin slammed on the brakes, and the car swerved off the road.” Or: “When Robin slammed on the brakes, the car swerved off the road.”

EXAMPLE #4: Six months after attending the writers’ conference, Gail’s article was accepted by a publisher.

The subject of this sentence is “Gail’s article.” “Gail’s article” did not attend the writers’ conference. So you’d want to rewrite to something like: “Six months after Gail attended Mount Hermon, her article was accepted by a publisher.”

SIMULTANEOUS ACTIONS

Be sure the action in the modifying phrase can be accomplished at the same time as the action in the rest of the sentence.

EXAMPLE: Hugging the postman, Delilah ripped open the box containing her new novel.

Delilah cannot simultaneously hug the postman and rip open a box. Reword to something like: “After hugging the postman, Delilah ripped open the box containing her new novel.”

MISPLACED MODIFIERS

The position of a modifier determines what thing or action is being modified.

EXAMPLE #1: Sharon sent out a proposal for her book on living with horses last week.

Sharon’s proposal wasn’t for a book about “living with horses last week.” Reword: “Last week Sharon sent out a proposal for her book on living with horses.”

EXAMPLE #2: The editor told me on Thursday I have a book signing.

Did the editor say this on Thursday, or do you have a book signing on Thursday? “On Thursday, the editor told me I have a book signing.” Or: “The editor told me I have a book signing on Thursday.”


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Used by permission and reprinted from www.kathyide.com

—Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series, is a full-time freelance editor/writing mentor and teacher. She is the founder and director of the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you God for giving the writing community two talented people willing to use their passion to help others.

    ReplyDelete

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