Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about tips for writers based on the most common mistakes I see in the manuscripts I edit.
When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the subject of that 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 #1: “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
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.”
EXAMPLE #2: “Slamming on the brakes, the car swerved off the road.”
Unless you’re writing a Stephen King-type novel, 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.”
EXAMPLE #3: “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.”
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.”
The position of a modifier determines what thing or action is being modified.
EXAMPLE #1: “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.”
EXAMPLE #2: “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.”
If you’re interested in working with a freelance editor (or know someone who is), e-mail me through the contact page of my website. Or go to the Christian Editor Connection to get referrals to other established, professional editorial freelancers. If you’re a freelance editor yourself, or think you might be interested in that field, check out The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network.
And when you’re ready to proofread your manuscript, consider getting a copy of my book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. It reveals how multi-published authors proofread their manuscripts to avoid typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.
If you read or write fiction, check out my new Fiction Lover’s Devotional series! The first book, 21 Days of Grace, releases June 1, but is available now for preorder. Details are at www.FictionDevo.com.