While researching something completely unrelated, I came across a term that I didn’t know. Dangling modifiers or misplaced modifiers. Of course once I did some further research I figured it out quickly and I discovered I dangle modifiers. Huh.
So what is it? Modifiers are words or phrase that modify something else. Often causing a confusing statement that can also be funny. Vague I know, the examples make it clearer what I mean.
Jim almost walked down every street looking for the dog.
Almost is the modifier in that sentence, but it implies that Jim didn’t go all they way down each street.
Jim walked down almost every street looking for the dog.
Now the sentence reads correctly and the modifier is placed correctly. Now Jim is walking down the streets, just not all of them.
Let me try another:
Rolling down the street, Amber was terrified by the runaway car.
Since Amber comes right after “rolling down the street” Amber is the modifier and is the one rolling. Which is a weird thing to do.
Honestly in this case the “rolling down the street” is superfluous. But if one really felt that it needed to be said, perhaps this would be better.
Rolling down the street, the runaway car terrified Amber.
Okay so now the car is rolling, not Amber. Although the other might make for a more interesting story.
Covered in dust, Scott questioned the plates cleanliness.
Because Scott followed the dust, Scott is dusty not the plate.
Covered in dust, the plate caused Scott to question the cleanliness.
What I would write in this case if I see the comma, I know it could be way better anyway. Besides I like to bring the sentence out of the characters head (I write in third) and make it part of the experience.
Scott ran his finger over the dusty plate and grimaced at the smudge on his finger.
I’m sure I do this all the time. Maybe someday I’ll write without tonnes of errors, but until then I’ll ask others to proof. These sorts of mistakes are caught by proof readers or reading the book out loud to myself. For me I try to take out the comma if it’s being used. I’s usually a clear sign that I’ve dangled the wrong damned thing.
My advice about Dangling modifiers.
De-dangle them, re write the sentence. Otherwise what the reader reads, might not actually be what’s happening.
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