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Time for another writing tip from Daryl L.L. Houston – dangling modifiers! I’m often guilty of this and have to monitor myself constantly. Houston is right, the results have been hilarious.
A dangling modifier is a grammatical construction in which a modifying word or phrase is placed at too great a distance from the word or phrase it aims to modify, resulting in a lack of clarity or, in some cases, hilarity. An example from the Wikipedia article:
Walking down the street, the trees were beautiful.
The “walking down the street” here is intended to modify (or describe) the person who is expressing the opinion that the trees were beautiful, but since that person makes no appearance within the sentence, the grammar of the sentence is such that the phrase applies to the trees. And we all know that outside of certain fantasy fiction, trees do not walk.
To clarify this sentence, we might rewrite it as follows:
Walking down the street, I thought the trees were beautiful.
Here we’ve added the subject “I” right next to the modifier “walking down…
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I think I have at least one Frankenstory I should abandon! You’ll get a kick out of Daryl L.L. Houston’s dangerous conclusion!
I’ve been going through something of a creative dry spell lately, writing instead in a more critical mode about things I’ve been reading. I’ve been dutifully attending meetings of my local writer’s group to offer commentary but have had nothing new of my own to submit.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally declared myself in a position to write something new. For a couple of years now, I’ve been sitting on an idea that I haven’t quite been able to pull together into a coherent story. Occasionally I’ve taken a few notes while thinking about where to go with it, but I’ve always false-started when trying to write the story itself. Finally, when I recently tried to take the pen up again, I thought I had the glue that would bind all the notes and ideas together, and I spent hours and hours trying to write the story. Some…
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