Friday, September 4, 2009

Editing Tip # 11: Dangling Modifiers


Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips

© Kathy Ide, 2009



In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


~ DANGLING MODIFIERS ~


When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the next thing in 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: "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."


"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."


"Slamming on the brakes, the car swerved off the road."

Unless you're Stephen King, the car 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."


"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: "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."

"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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NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this

publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission

of the author.

To request permission, please e-mail Kathy@KathyIde.com.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (http://www.thechristianpen.com/) and the Christian Editor Network (http://www.christianeditor.com/). To find out more, please visit http://www.kathyide.com/.






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