More Dangling Things

Here are some more dangling things. These are called dangling (and misplaced) modifiers. A writer might start a sentence with a modifying phrase, but all too often she doesn’t start the second phrase with the correct noun (that goes with it). Here are some examples of misplaced modifiers:

• With one hundred years of experience, you can count on Sears. [You don’t have a hundred years of experience.]
• As a scientist, his lab is far from his home. [His lab is not a scientist.]
• Fresh out of school, finding a job was impossible. [“Finding a job” is not fresh out of school.]
• Doctors see babies once they finish their residency. [Do babies go through residency?]
• They visited the lions at the zoo after they ate a zebra. [Who ate the zebra?]
• They are writing a newsletter for parents of teens who take drugs. [Are the parents or the teens taking the drugs?]
• This is a novel of betrayal by a famous author. [Did the author betray someone?]
• She followed the man into the store with determination. [Never knew a store could be so determined!]

These are easy to fix, of course, just by rewording. If you look for sentences you write that have two nouns (subject and object) in them, that will help you spot the potential problem.

11 Responses to “More Dangling Things”

  1. Crittersister May 25, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    Nice and informative blog! I’ll come back again! Shared on facebook too!

    • cslakin May 25, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      Thanks so much! If you subscribe via email, the posts will just come to you in a nice format.

  2. Nancy M.Popovich May 25, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Thanks for the reminder! This is a bad habit I am attempting to correct, even if it is in the edit phase.

  3. Gerry Wilson May 25, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    As a retired English teacher turned writer, I love, love, love your practical pieces about grammar and usage. Even with my background, I need to be reminded! I’m afraid that right use of language–especially pronouns–is becoming a lost art. Granted, we take liberties with dialogue, but mistakes like these–and misuse of words (I just read a fine short story collection where the author misused lie/lay outside the context of dialogue)–are really off-putting, I’m also seeing blogs with errors that a good proofreading would fix. I think it’s important for whatever we put “out there” to be as polished as we can make it.

  4. Solitaire Parke May 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    This is a great post! Not only informative, but quite comical! Thanks for the reminder! It’s all too easy to make these mistakes! Hope you have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend! 🙂

  5. Nancy DeMarco May 26, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    I do a lot of workshopping with other writers, and these danglers come up all the time – makes me nuts, but it seems most folks aren’t bothered by them. I see these errors finding their way into published work, too.

  6. Diane Stephenson May 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder. These dangling things can be a real problem and can certainly change the meaning from the original purpose. We have come across this a number of times in our critiquing group. It can cause some humor, though. I, too, have come across it in published work and I wonder if it was really edited. I agree with Gerry, “I’m also seeing blogs with errors that a good proofreading would fix. I think it’s important for whatever we put “out there” to be as polished as we can make it.” I read and reread and read again before I publish my blog posts and even then I can miss something. I have sometimes noticed errors after I have posted and I always go back in to edit it.

  7. James May 27, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    “but all too often “she” doesn’t start the second”

    A little gender presumptive are we?

    • cslakin May 27, 2012 at 5:58 am #

      Actually, what most writing teachers like to do is rotate use of gender. It’s awkward to always say he or she did this or that. And it’s gender biased to always default to “he” on everything, so the common practive these days is to try to give equal time to both genders. Make sense?

  8. Sheila Deeth May 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Love the zebra one!

  9. Joe Hefferon June 6, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Good job

    we need more helpful posts on these boards.

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