How to fix dangling modifiers in your writing

Among the most common mistakes beginning authors make is dangling modifiers. These occur when a description isn’t about the noun that comes immediately before or after it. For example:

After not meeting curfew three nights in a row, Jane decided to try a new strategy with her teen daughter.

The dangling modifier is not meeting curfew three nights in a row, because Jane the mother isn’t the one who didn’t meet curfew. However, the sentence reads like Jane is the one having a problem getting home each night.

To resolve a dangling modifier, all you need to do is shift the dangling modifier’s position in the sentence. You instead could write:

Jane decided to try a new strategy with her teen daughter, who had not met curfew three nights in a row.

While true that in most cases the reader will get what you mean, a dangling modifier still results in an awkwardly worded sentence. You’ll also probably get a shorter sentence, mainly because it’s more efficient and streamlined.

In the worse cases, however, your sentence will simply elicit a laugh from the reader for being humorous (albeit unintentionally). To wit:

Oozing slowly across the floor, David watched the salad dressing.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.