Those Darn Dangling Modifiers

One common mistake writers make–and I see this in publications, so it’s not just in manuscripts–is dangling modifiers.

What’s a dangling modifier and how do you know you’ve got one?

A dangling modifier is a phrase that says something different from (not than, by the way) what you intend to say. You know you’ve got one when you slow down and really read what the sentence says. Check the noun that follows that the modifier. If the noun that follows is the one that should be modified, you’re okay. If not, you’ve got a danglind modifier.

Here are some examples to help you see what I’m talking about.

  • Walking to work after the blizzard, the sun’s reflection on the snow almost blinded him. (The sun’s reflection didn’t walk to work after the blizzard.)
  • By changing the color scheme, the eye saw the image. (The eye didn’t change the color scheme.)
  • After reading the mystery, the characters made more sense to her. (The characters didn’t read the mystery.)

A modifier is supposed to clarify what it modifies by giving more information about it so the reader understands better. Dangling modifiers do the opposite although readers can often figure out what you intended.

Look over your manuscript for dangling modifiers. If you find any, fix them and your reader will enjoy your work much more.

Happy writing!


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