Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers + FREE Book on Plotting



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Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ How to recognize and correct misplaced or dangling modifiers that change your intended meaning.

Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…


Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.

I’m surprised I haven’t already blogged about this, since I see it so frequently, even with very skilled/experienced writers. However, I searched my past posts and didn’t find it, so here goes. Dangling & Misplaced modifiers seem to be a little confusing for some. I will attempt to briefly and clearly explain. 

A dangling modifier is when a word or phrase of your sentence refers to or ‘modifies’ the incorrect thing. Some examples:

Trying to focus on the target, the gun shook in his hand. (It sounds like the gun is trying to focus)

Glancing down, a snake slithered across the path. (Sounds like the snake glanced down)

Looking up at the screen, the flight was delayed once again. (Sounds like the flight looked up at the screen)

Trying to catch up to the taxi, rain poured from the clouds, soaking my dress. (Sounds like the rain was trying to catch the taxi)

Once you recognize them, they are easily fixed: (There are several ways to fix them, I am just offering one option for each)

The gun shook in his head as he tried to focus on the target.

I glanced down. A snake slithered across the path.

Looking up at the screen, I discovered the flight was delayed once again.

As I tried to catch up to the taxi, rain poured from the clouds, soaking my dress.

A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase of your sentence that is so far away from the word or phrase it refers to, the meaning changes. Some examples:

Teresa sifted through the bin and spotted a pink girl’s shirt. (The ‘girl’ is not pink, the shirt is)

The damaged package lay on the desk with the sides caved in. (The sides of the box are caved in, not the sides of the desk)

His reputation was enough to strike fear, even without the fact that he’d just shot a man with a gun. (The man didn’t have a gun, that’s what was used to shoot the man)

The diamonds were too expensive in the store. (‘In the store’ seems to be modifying ‘expensive)

Possible fixes:

Teresa sifted through the bin and spotted a girl’s pink shirt.  

The damaged package with the sides caved in lay on the desk.

His reputation was enough to strike fear, even without the fact that he’d just used his gun to shoot a man. 

The diamonds in the store were too expensive.

Make sense? The problem, though, usually lies in recognizing them. Once you do, as I said, they are easy to fix. I actually had a misplaced modifier in my novel, Soul Seducer, which is being edited for publication with Edward Allen Publishing. Here is my faux paus that the wonderful Leah Price caught:

 “Wish I was that dedicated,” Audra said, motioning toward the woman with her chin.

It sounds like the woman had Audra’s chin. 🙂

 I corrected it to:

“Wish I was that dedicated,” Audra said, motioning with her chin toward the woman.

Now, isn’t that better? 

Until next time…happy writing!


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2 minute writing tip final

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*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible. 


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Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.

Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!

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Filed under For Writers, Promo Tips, Tips from an Editor

4 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers + FREE Book on Plotting

  1. coryellsusan

    From my students: “The pilot talked to the stewardess warming up his motors.” And, “He washed the floor with his little sister.” Made for some interesting paper grading! Nice post and thanks.


  2. Loved the chin example! I noticed the dangling modifiers often started with an -ing verb. Is that something to look out for? If you see a sentence starting with an -ing verb, make sure it is modifying the right thing? Thanks for the tips! Always helpful.


  3. pamelasthibodeaux

    Great advice as always Alicia!
    Shared and pinned

    Good luck and God’s Blessings.


  4. I like how you first show the examples for dangling and misplaced modifiers, and then show how to fix them. Seeing it really helps! Thanks! Bookmarking this one!


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