Thursday, April 24, 2014


Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
Take a Tip from Helen #2

by Helen Hardt

Misplaced Modifiers
A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies/describes.
This can be corrected by changing the order of the words in the sentence. For example:

They saw a fence behind the house made of barbed wire.

Is the house made of barbed wire? Probably not, but that’s what this sentences says. Correct it by moving “made of barbed wire.”

They saw a fence made of barbed wire behind the house.

Dangling Modifiers
A dangling modifier is a phrase or clause that is not clearly and logically related to the word or words it modifies.

This cannot be corrected by changing the order of the words in the sentence. It requires a rewrite.

Walking to the movies, the rain drenched Jim.

What the author means to say here is that Jim got drenched while walking to the movies. What the author is actually saying is that the rain was walking to the movies. Rewrite the sentence.

Rain drenched Jim while he walked to the movies.

You could also say:

Walking to the movies, Jim got drenched by rain.

But this results in passive voice, which is best avoided in fiction.

Here is a little from my erotic paranormal novella where misplaced or dangling modifiers would have created a reading disaster.

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

When mysterious Damian MacGowan saves Suzanne Wood from a gang of thugs in a small Scotland town, she's beyond grateful, but his possessive need to be near her troubles her. Still, he's gorgeous, and part of her doesn't mind his attention.

Damian doesn’t understand why he’s drawn to Suzanne. He knows only that he must have her, or he will die. As the two get to know each other, love blossoms. But Damian has a secret, and an enemy, that may keep him from Suzanne forever.

To read an excerpt from BLOOD WOLF please click here.

To read excerpts from Helen Hardt's other books please click here.

Helen Hardt is the Head Line Editor for Musa Publishing and a freelance editor. She is also an award-winning author. Helen writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, and erotic romance for several publishers. Her non-writing interests include Harley rides with her husband, attending her sons’ sports and music performances, traveling, and Taekwondo (she’s a blackbelt.)

Learn more about Helen Hardt on her website and author's blog. For editing services check out Helen's other blog The Doctor Is In.


Sara Daniel said...

Oh boy, my editors have slapped my hands for these so many times that I actually recognize when I do this and fix them on my own now. Although, I never catch them all. Thank goodness for great editors!

Kate Larkindale said...

i always get snapped for a few of these in every MS...

Helen and Lorri said...

Darn those dangling bits...errr...say, Helen, do you catch all of these in your own manuscripts? Or does your editor still find a few?

Rhea Rhodan said...

I struggle with the dangling modifiers too. I just don't see them. BTW, fabulous cover on Blood Wolf.

Vonnie said...

Thank goodness you mentioned the dangling modifiers, Helen. Every second or third headline in our newspapers has 'em. I kid you not. I snigger superiorly, but I guess if I wasn't educated to that standard, I wouldn't see that they sound ridiculous. They seem to be the norm nowadays.