Originally posted as the Dun Writin’—Now Whut? series on this blog, EDITING 101 is a weekly refresher series for some of you and brand new for others.
Courtesy of Adirondack Editing
In a previous article, we discussed dangling participles (EDITING 101:24). Today we’re going to discuss dangling modifiers.
If you remember, “dangling” is another word for “misplaced.” A modifier is a noun or an adjective that amends or explains, adding description to another noun. So a dangling modifier is simply a word modifying a noun that is in the wrong place, thereby making the sentence ambiguous or confusing, and sometimes downright funny.
Incorrect: The woman walked the dog in purple suede cowboy boots.
Correct: The woman in purple suede cowboy boots walked the dog.
Incorrect: We saw several monkeys on vacation in Mexico.
Correct: While on vacation in Mexico, we saw several monkeys.
Incorrect: We saw several blue jays looking out our front window.
Correct: Looking out our front window, we saw several blue jays.
Incorrect: While camping, I saw a bear in my pajamas.
Correct: While camping in my pajamas, I saw a bear.
All these examples include people, but sometimes inanimate objects get in on the action, too!
Incorrect: The library has several books about dinosaurs in our school.
Correct: The library in our school has several books about dinosaurs.
Incorrect: I found my missing baseball glove cleaning my room.
Correct: While cleaning my room, I found my missing baseball glove.
Incorrect: He was staring at the girl by the vending machine wearing dark glasses.
Correct: He was staring at the girl wearing dark glasses by the vending machine.
Another famous example of this humorous effect is by Groucho Marx as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding in the 1930 film, Animal Crackers:
“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.”
Next week we’ll discuss ‘Using Quotes in Your Book and Research Tips’
This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.
I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.
If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.