EDITING 101: 47 – Dangling Modifiers…

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

Dangling Modifiers

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.

More funny examples of misplaced modifiers and participles can be found HERE.

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’

To see the index and catch up with missed episodes of this series – CLICK HERE

NOTE:

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.

Susan

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58 thoughts on “EDITING 101: 47 – Dangling Modifiers…

  1. Susan thanks for the great information on this series of blogs via Chris The Story Reading Ape’s blog. Thanks Chris for promoting the series.
    I copied some of the examples for my 9 year old granddaughter who will appreciate the humour, and instruction, in your current ‘dangling’ examples. She visited me during the recent school holidays and attended my Writers’ group, writing and reading her story to the group and taking seriously their constructive comments. The following day saw her deep in thought then, with computer keys clicking quickly, editing her story. I plan to introduce her to Adironack Editing via selected copies of your wonderful information 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      • This 65-year-old enjoys the humor!

        My dad’s favorite example was: Running along the limb, I saw a squirrel. (He infected me with his sense of humor, such as saying “My girl has freckles on her but she’s pretty” out loud as an example of two independent clauses needing a comma between them and because it sounds mildly scatological.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I got a knot in the pit of my stomach when reading this, Susan. I immediately wanted to open and reread my manuscripts. I swear, we could edit until the cows come home, but there still would be something dangling somewhere! I’m learning so much from this series. Many thanks to you and Chris for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us ♥♥

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aaack! If your book is finished, Tina, maybe you should stop reading these tips temporarily! You’re right—there is only so much editing you can do. At some point you have to “close the book” (hahaha!) and declare it finished and done. Move on to something new and fresh to get your mind off this one. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    It is time for another master class in editing from Susan Uttendorfsky of Adirondack Editing, sharing her expertise for FREE on The Story Reading Ape’s blog. There is nothing worse than a dangling participle or so you might have thought… the condition worsens when you have dangling modifiers. Discover the treatment necessary by heading over. #recommended

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Chris.
    I wanted to let you know, that I now have a new website, and the old site will be deleted very soon. So that you don’t miss out, I have popped you onto the Follow Me subscription so that you can continue receiving notifications of my blog posts. Could I ask you to confirm the subscription by press the “Follow” button and please put your email in? Thank you so much. That is all you have to do.
    http://gigised.com

    I look forward to being able to keep in touch with you on my new website.

    Thank you very much
    Gigi

    Liked by 1 person

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