Danging Modifiers and more…

As a writer, words and punctuation marks are the tools of your trade.

Do you see anything wrong with that sentence? If not, you may have dangling modifiers in your manuscripts.

The subject of that sentence is “words and punctuation marks.” The introductory phrase, “as a writer,” does not modify the subject of the sentence. Words and punctuation marks aren’t a writer.

How about this: Hugging the postman, Delilah ripped open the box containing her new novel. Delilah cannot simultaneously hug the postman and rip open a box.

For more about dangling modifiers, as well as other PUGS Pointers, read on.


PUGS errors could cost you money.

If you decide to hire someone to edit or proofread your manuscript, and you haven’t fixed your punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, you will be paying extra for someone else to do that for you. And how will you know if that editor is right?


Commas with Dates

Dates in text include a comma only if the month and then the date precede the year.

            “On October 10, 1980, Donita submitted her fourth book in the series.”

When using only the month and year (or date, then month, then year), do not use a comma.

            “Copyright October 1980” or “On 6 October 1924 Angela arrived in Istanbul.”



For Books: According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

backseat (noun)
            “Henry found a wad of gum on the backseat.”

back-seat (adjective)
            “Terrence was a back-seat driver.”

For Articles: Per Webster’s New World College Dictionary, spell as two words (back seat) when used as a noun to mean “a secondary or inconspicuous position.” Example:
            “Food takes a back seat to romance when you’re in love.”


Dangling Modifiers

When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the subject of the sentence must be modified by that word or phrase. A “dangling modifier” is a phrase that does not clearly and sensibly modify the appropriate word or phrase.

Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the Mustang seemed to run better.”
A Mustang cannot change its own oil. So you’d want to rewrite that as:
“Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Sandra found she got much better gas mileage.”

Six months after attending Mount Hermon, Kim’s article was accepted by a publisher.”
“Kim’s article” did not attend Mount Hermon. So rewrite to something like:
“Six months after Kim attended Mount Hermon, her article was accepted by a publisher.”


One word (no hyphen) according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

For Articles: According to The AP Stylebook, should be baby-sit, baby-sitting, baby-sat (one word with a hyphen), except for baby sitter, which is two words, no hyphen.