What is a dangling modifier?
The term dangling modifier refers to a word or phrase, usually at the start of a sentence, that does
not connect properly to the rest of the sentence. Dangling modifiers are easy to miss. In fact, they
surface from time to time in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. In other words, even
experienced editors sometimes miss them. But once you know how to spot dangling modifiers, they
are reasonably easy to fix.
How to undangle dangling modifiers
The best way to learn how to undangle a dangling modifier is to work through some examples:
Tempted by the three witches’ prophecy, Macbeth’s moral scruples give way to his ambition.
The problem with this sentence is that Macbeth’s scruples are not tempted by the prophecy;
Macbeth is tempted. Observe that the opening modifier implicitly raises this question of who or
what is tempted. The noun or noun phrase that immediately follows must supply the answer. To fix
the problem here, we can choose a noun or phrase that does answer the question of who:
Tempted by the three witches’ prophecy, Macbeth allows his moral scruples to give way to his ambition.
Another solution . . . See More
JANUARY 31, 2012
I’ve edited a monthly magazine for more than six years, and it’s a job that’s come with more frustration than reward. If there’s one thing I am grateful for — and it sure isn’t the pay — it’s that my work has allowed endless time to hone my craft to Louis Skolnick levels of grammar geekery.
As someone who slings red ink for a living, let me tell you: grammar is an ultra-micro component in the larger picture; it lies somewhere in the final steps of the editing trail; and as such it’s an overrated quasi-irrelevancy in the creative process, perpetuated into importance primarily by bitter nerds who accumulate tweed jackets and crippling inferiority complexes. But experience has also taught me that readers, for better or worse, will approach your work with a jaundiced eye and an itch to judge. While your grammar shouldn’t be a reflection of your creative powers or writing abilities, let’s face it — it usually is.
Below are 20 common grammar mistakes I see routinely, not only in editorial queries and submissions, but in print: in HR manuals, blogs, magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and even best-selling novels. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve made each of these mistakes a hundred times, and I know some of the best authors in history have lived to see these very toadstools appear in print. Let’s hope you can learn from some of their more famous mistakes.
Who and Whom
This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.” See More . . .