Did You See That?

While scanning the article, the dangling modifier caught her eye.

You saw that, right?  The way the words are arranged in the preceding sentence, it sounds like an alien creature tried to pluck someone’s peepers while scanning an article.  And although the dangling modifier, also known as a dangling participle, can inject alien influence into a sentence, it’s also an easy fix.

In general the inappropriate word or phrase doesn’t actually refer the word it’s intended to modify.  Sometimes the word it meant to refer to doesn’t even appear in the sentence, which is an easy slip because the writer has the subject firmly in mind, but the words don’t come out the way they’re supposed to.  For instance:

With a glance at the gamboling goats, the gate closed.

Obviously gates don’t glance at goats and close themselves.  The farmer who actually carried out these activities fell out of the sentence.  And writers usually fall into that error because they’re trying to mix up sentence structure beyond the subject-predicate-object arrangement.

As stated, it’s easy enough to fix.  The first sentence can be:  While scanning the article, she noticed the dangling modifier.

And the capricious caretaker can receive his credit:  With a glance at the gamboling goats, the farmer closed the gate.

Making modifications to the wrong subject can cause hilarity as well as confusion.  When you look over the following examples, notice the twisted image they present, and then determine how to right their wrongs:

Hungry after the long hike, the sandwich was eaten with relish.

Having finished the romantic meal, the radio was turned on.

Drinking a glass of wine, the chicken tasted even better.

Disappointed, the woolly sheep could not be shorn.

Bedraggled but expensive, she decided not to buy the rooster.

Keeping those modifiers from dangling isn’t hard, although they can slip in when you least expect it.  Pay attention to those words and how they influence each other.  It just goes to show that by reviewing the writing, the error becomes clear.

You saw that, right…?

4 thoughts on “Did You See That?

  1. Heh. Yes, I saw that, BUT –
    It really depends on how tuned in you are as a reader. When I began reading this post yesterday (or maybe even two days ago), I read the opening few sentences and had no idea what was going on. Having realized that, I got some rest and returned today. I re-read the sentence and then refreshed my mind on what a hanging modifier was. Aaaaah, I see! “THAT’S why it seems wrong!” I felt silly for a minute but it just reinforced the fact that you just have to be in the ‘right’ mindset in order to reap the most from reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not sure if you read something yesterday or two days ago … boy, have I been there! 🙂

      You’re right on target about how one’s mindset can affect the reading experience, and as writers we have to assume they’re gonna be ‘on the ball.’ The challenge is, sometimes we aren’t always in the ‘right’ mindset while writing, which is why we keep reminding ourselves how to use the tools of the trade!

      Liked by 1 person

      • This sent me down a rabbit hole. Writing is about the writer and the reader. Ideally, both are ‘on the ball/’ ‘tuned in.’ Realistically speaking at least one of those two is not. Sometimes I feel like I’ve written the greatest piece of all time and Reader X doesn’t like it. I wonder why… Then, I write a piece that I think is less than perfect and the same reader absolutely loves it. Then I’m just dumbfounded. I know that some things speak to us more than others, but I think what you and I are discussing here might also be a factor that is often overlooked.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is amazing how that works. My local writing group gets really interesting when two or more of the participants have differing views on a particular passage we’re reviewing. Writing falls into that ‘you can’t please everybody’ category. Especially in regard to the general public, readers approach your work with their own biases. We all seem to have that experience of ‘Well, this piece is a bit lackluster’ and somebody loves it; and ‘I’m pleased with this piece’ only to have somebody hate it. Like the saying goes, you don’t have to be crazy to do this job … but it helps!

        Liked by 1 person

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