Are you writing what you meant to write? Is your prose concise, and easy to understand? You may have one thing in mind when you write that sentence, only to discover it’s ambiguous, misleading, and sometimes quite humorous.
Dangling modifier- When a sentence isn’t clear about what’s being modified it dangles. Keep in mind modifiers should be near what they modify. These are probably my favorite messed up sentences. While I hope I haven’t written or submitted any for publishing, I’m sure I’ve dangled a few in my time. They are confusing, but on the bright side, very funny.
The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.
Misplaced modifier- A phrase or clause placed awkwardly in a sentence so that it appears to modify or refer to an unintended word.
Lex called to talk about the meeting yesterday. Did Lex call yesterday or was the meeting yesterday? I’m confused.
Ambiguous writing– It’s not spelled out. You didn’t provide enough information for your reader to understand what you’re trying to say. Ambiguous writing can leave your reader more confused than a misplaced modifier .
My older students know I say what I mean.
Are the student’s older in age or have they just been in his class a lot longer? It could mean either of the two.
Make sure you are saying what you mean. Be concise. Just something to think about.
You ever read sentences and stop? You go back and read them again and again. Sometimes you probably laugh out loud, because they’re funny and definitely not what the author had in mind.
You want see them that often in published work. By the time your manuscript hits the publishers desk, sentences like these have been cleaned up. At least they had better be if you want your work taken seriously. Watch out for those dangling modifiers and badly placed words.
A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.
A dangling modifier is misplaced because it doesn’t have anything to modify. The word or words a dangling modifier should modify have been omitted from the sentence. I know you hear professionals say cut, cut, cut, but some words should not be cut.
“Always suspect an -ing word of dangling if it’s near the front of a sentence; consider it guilty until proven innocent.” –Patricia O’Connor.
Incorrect: Reading the regulations, the dog did not enter the park.
- “Reading the regulations” is a dangling modifier.
- The dog cannot read the regulations; the word(s) that “reading the regulations” modifies have been omitted.
Correct: After reading the regulations, I did not enter the park with my dog.
And then there’s…
The kind mother, handed out bologna sandwiches to all the children in Ziploc bags. (What were they doing in Ziploc bags?)
The robber was in his late thirties and about 6’2″, with long curly hair weighing about 160 lbs. (I think I would cut a little bit of that hair.)
The homeowner chased the intruder wearing nothing but his underwear. (Who was wearing nothing but underwear?)
Just for laughs…..
- Coming out of the market, the bananas fell on the pavement.
- With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
- I saw an accident walking down the street.
- Freshly painted, Jim left the room to dry.
- He held the umbrella over Janet’s head that he got from Delta Airlines.
- Lost: Antique walking stick by an old man with a carved ivory head.
- The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.
I know most of you have dangling modifiers down, but they are so much fun.
Today as I revised my novel, I noticed something that should have leaped off the page during past reviews, but didn’t. I am having a love affair with ‘ing’. These ‘ing’ words are all over the place.
I stopped the revision process and did some research on ‘ing’. I remembered reading somewhere, that the overuse of ‘ing’ words was not a good thing.
Opportunities to overuse the ‘ing’ word are boundless. There are nouns, adjectives, verbs, and even verbs masquerading as nouns called gerunds, all ending in ‘ing’.
So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with ‘ing’ words?
The overuse of ‘ing’ words mark you as an amateur – Don’t be alarmed if you see more than a handful on one page. Do take a closer look if you see more than a handful in a single paragraph.
While wrapping a soothing sling around the fledgling’s broken wing, Diana was humming, dreaming of her prince charming. Yet troubling thoughts about his depressing friend Starling kept intruding, interrupting her very entertaining daydreams. There was something intriguing and alarming about him.
‘ing’ verbs weaken your writing and make it clumsy and hard to read . Abigail was walking along the bike trail. There was a boy riding his bike. He was smiling up at her as she passed. She started wondering what the boy was so happy about.
Abigail walked along the bike trail. A boy smiled at her as he rode passed. She wondered what he was so happy about.
Starting a sentence with an ‘ing’ word is the weakest way to begin a sentence.
Hitting the thug in the face with her purse, Josie reached for her phone.
Josie hit the thug in the face with her purse and reached for her phone.
To identify overuse of ‘ing’ words in your writing, try this:
- Use the “search” or “find” function in your word processing app(usually under editing).
- Use ‘ing’ as your search term.
- Examine each ‘ing’ word you find.
- Ask whether the ‘ing’ word is essential to meaning.
- Determine whether a simple past or other tense might work better.
- Decide if a stronger word choice might be the way to go.
Once you identify ‘ing’ words, replace weak or common ones with specific, stronger word choices. Your writing will become more concise, clear, and engaging.
Remember, not all ‘ing’ words are bad. The issue is whether or not you have made the best word choice.
So much info on the internet. You get the cliff notes. Hope they help, or at least get you thinking 🙂
Commas are an albatross around my neck. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic but they are frequently my downfall in writing prose. Unfortunately, they are the most common punctuation mark within sentences, so you had better learn their proper use.
What’s the purpose of commas?
- Separate main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction.
example: The house was built, but it had no tenants.
The meal was cooked, and the kitchen was cleaned.
2. Set off most introductory elements.
example: Unfortunately, the rest of the house was a mess.
Of course, I would love to go.
3. Set off nonessential elements (phrases that could be removed from the sentence and
not effect its meaning.
example: The injury, sustained from the fall, needed to be taken care of.
The injury needed to be taken care of-is the actual sentence. The words set
apart by the commas are informative but not necessary to convey the idea.
4. Separate item in a series/list.
example: She had eggs, grits, sausage, and bacon for breakfast.
5. Separate coordinate adjectives.
example: She was an independent, hardworking woman.
The warm, cozy comforter was all I needed.
6. Separate quotations and signal phrases( she said, he wrote, said Elsie).
example: “Knowledge is power,” wrote Francis Bacon.
Lisa said, “Do not walk on the grass.”
There are some exceptions to this rule.
example: “That part of my life was over,” she wrote. “His words had sealed it shut.”
“Claude!” Jamie called.
James Baldwin insists that “one must never, in ones life,
accept…injustices as commonplace.” (It’s integrated into the sentence so
a comma isn’t necessary.)
7. Separate parts of dates, addresses, place names, and long numbers.
example: July 4, 1776, is independence day. December 1941(doesn’t need a comma)
Raleigh, North Carolina, is the location of NC State University.
Do not use a comma between a state name and a zip code.
Use the comma to separate long numbers in groups of three. With numbers of 4 digits, the comma is optional.
Okay, now you know what I know. This exercise was as much for me as it was for you. Hopefully I can retain the information and use it, during my next revision 🙂