Monday, January 11, 2016

Beware of the Dangling Modifier

Today's guest is author, editor, 
and writing mentor Kathy Ide.

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."

If you have a question or comment for Kathy, please leave it in the comment section below.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and kibsri.)

TWEETABLES
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Kathy Ide is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker. Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. To order, visit www.secretsofbestsellingauthors.com. Kathy is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com). To find out more, visit www.KathyIde.com.


3 comments:

  1. Kathy, excellent information, well-presented. As always, thanks for the reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Richard. As always, happy to help!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you.

    Pat W. Kirk

    ReplyDelete

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