I see many types of grammatical and punctuation errors throughout the course of editing other people’s manuscripts. And a common one involves the misplaced modifier, dangling modifier or dangling participle.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spew rules of grammar in technical terms today. I just want you to be cognizant of an easy-to-make mistake that you could be guilty of and show you how to correct it.
Can you see the problems in the following sentences?
“Walking past the open window, the breeze warmed my face.”
“Having committed to the late night meeting, my car careened toward the library.”
“Leaning over the balcony, the body came into view.”
“Climbing up into the saddle, the horse gently trotted away.”
None of these sentences makes any sense the way they are written, do they? Did the breeze walk past the window? Did the car commit to the meeting? Did the body lean over the balcony before it came into view? And I’m sure you realize that the horse that trotted away is not the one who climbed into the saddle.
I would make these changes in these sentences:
“As I walked past the open window, I could feel the warm breeze on my face.”
“Having committed to the late night meeting, I drove my car toward the library.”
“I leaned over the balcony and the body came into view.”
“I climbed up into the saddle and the horse gently trotted away.”
Check the manuscript you’re working on. Do you tend to write sentence that don’t quite say what you intend—that make your readers stop, shake their heads and lower their opinion of your credibility as a writer? If so, make it your priority to locate and correct those sentences today.