Craft Monday: Do you dangle your modifiers?

It’s Craft Monday, and we’re reposting an oldie but a goodie from author/editor Alicia Dean. Alicia tackles the often confusing world of misplaced and dangling modifiers.


Writing this blog post, mBlog_Modifiersy phone rang.  A man selling cemetery plots with a husky voice was calling.

Okay, neither of those happened. But I thought they would serve as good examples. The first sentence is a dangling modifier; it insinuates my phone was writing this blog post (and it might do a better job than I, come to think of it). The second sentence is a misplaced modifier; the wording would lead you to believe the cemetery plots have a husky voice, which would, quite frankly, be a little scary, but pretty awesome.

The way to correct these would be:

My  phone rang while I was writing this blog post. A man with a husky voice selling cemetery plots was calling.

As an editor, I run across a lot of dangling modifiers and misplaced modifiers. My authors can attest to the fact that I do not care for these deceptive little devils. Although when a reader pauses and thinks about the sentence logically, he or she will most likely figure out its true meaning, as an author it is your job to make things easy for your reader. If taken out of your story to solve a puzzle, your reader might not dive back in. DM’s and MM’s (we’re so well-acquainted, I gave them nicknames) are misleading to a reader, sometimes confusing, and just plain wrong.

Here are more examples:

Dangling modifiers:

Driving away from the house, my heart ached.

Was my heart driving?

Covered in daisies, the girl gazed at the hillside.

Was the girl covered in daisies? Okay, in this case, it’s possible, but not all that likely.

Eating a bowl of cereal, a mouse darted across the floor.

Single cartoon mouse running fast over isolated background

Was a mouse eating a bowl of cereal?

Misplaced modifiers:

Gym owner arrested for filming women as they showered on his cell phone.

Were the women showering on his cell phone?

I heard it was going to snow on the news.

Is it really going to snow on the news?

The boy played with the dog wearing his best suit.

Was the dog wearing his best suit? Again, that’s possible, since many pet owners dress their dogs, but it’s unlikely a dog would be foolish enough to play in his best suit

So, as you are writing and/or editing your story, keep an eye out for sentences with unclear or out of place modifiers and reword if necessary. After all, with women showering on cell phones, girls covered in daisies, and mice eating cereal, you would be creating a world of mayhem and chaos.