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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG - March - Those Dangling Modifiers!

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow ~ Helen Keller

March into Literacy Month presents the perfect opportunity to enter a writing contest, revisit or begin journaling, or write an article on one of our outstanding women in history. You could also sharpen your writing skills with any of the many great resources offered by the Insecure Writers Support Group, founded by Alex Cavanaugh, right here and right now on this first Wednesday of the month, when IWSG members convene through blogging, Facebook, and Twitter to talk about whatever is on our writing minds and agendas. See what we’re all talking about here.

An author’s use of initials, i.e., J.K. Rowling, holds a certain mystique for me. I always wonder why, even as I consider the undeniably compelling impact of doing so. Although initial users aren’t the only ones with surprises; I was astonished to discover that Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame was not a real person at all – but a multitude of writers who sold all rights to their stories for $125 (back in the day)! Incidentally, today begins National Ghostwriters week ;-)

As for what I’m thinking about these days, it’s those pesky misplaced or dangling modifiers that show up whether or not I was in a hurry when I wrote the sentence. Trying to convince my editor that the worldwide “they” will know what I mean was ineffective, as the esteemed wielder of the dreaded red pen only laughed harder. Apparently, not everyone’s refrigerator runs in the kitchen late at night ;-)

I tend to ‘run right out of my shoes’ while on a writing binge, and hope to pick them up later. That is if I can find them. It occurred to me that if only mistakes looked like periwinkle high-tops, I could save my editor a lot of work – and laughter ;-) So I found what I believe to be the next best thing – a grammar app – which applies all the familiar red slashes that won’t go away until the problem does. I can’t wait to see my editor’s reaction the next time I submit!

And now for the optional question of the month:

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?
Have I ever? Yes! It’s in the final refining stage. Did it work out? Fingers crossed!

Do your modifiers dangle? Do you use any apps for writers? Any thoughts on an author's use of initials? 

It's beginning to look a lot like Spring around here - Happy March!


  1. Hi, diedre!

    I hope you are feeling well today as most of the country begins the long March toward spring. As you and I can testify, spring is already underway in the Sun Belt. Here in Florida, yesterday's temp in the upper 80s made it feel like mid summer.

    I am a little late joining you today because I am on the road. Don't take that literally because it would be quite dangerous for me to write this comment with cars and trucks whizzing by. This week I am visiting family in another part of the state and needed to join them for breakfast before turning to blogging. At the table Mrs. S caught me daydreaming about my blog and shouted, "Eat up - you're behind!" Yesterday I watched in awe as a local farmer threw a horse over the fence some hay. One night when Mrs. S and I were kept awake by the sound of our fridge running in the kitchen, she sprang from the bed in anger and wrestled it to the ground.

    Do my modifiers dangle?

    Often, except in very cold weather. :)

    Do I use any apps for writers?

    Spellcheck is the only helper I use at the prezzent time, but the grammar app you found seems like a tremendously useful tool.

    Any thoughts on an author's use of initials?

    Are you asking if I personally have any thoughts on an author's use of initials, or are you asking if any thoughts on the subject exist in the universe? :) I think the novelty has worn off. In the mid 20th century it might have seemed cool to use initials. I believe that in the 21st century the practice is a cliché and no longer has the power to create the same sense of mystery.

    Thank you very much, dear friend diedre. It's great to see you again. Stay well. I hope to see you again soon!

    1. Hi Shady!

      I'm doing very well, thanks! Judging by your giggle-worthy jocularity, breakfast must have been especially good this morning ;-) Good for Mrs. Shady! How is she with cats who sneak off with the funny papers?

      Aha! So others are (or were) as intrigued by initials as I am ;-)

      I have deep respect for spellcheck and am currently in awe of the grammar app, which offers no room for arguments. You either fix it or prepare for an eternal stand-off.

      I did see your post yesterday and had one of the songs in my head all day! I'm currently making my rounds between tax returns - but I'll be by soon!

      Thanks for the smiles, my friend!

  2. Hi Diedre - I'm sure I have many dangling modifiers ... and far too many of those "..." things! Good luck with that re-write - cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary!

      Gosh, I've not known your prose to be anything less than superb!

      Thanks, of all the stories I've written, I'd really love for this one to succeed.

      Have a lovely day!

    2. Thank you .. sometimes I don't know how I write things -but I guess I'm lucky something stuck (somehow)!.

      I do hope the story succeeds - I'm sure it will ...

      I jotted down the sort of thing I do with herby bread ... under Parsley (16th Nov 16) - I use quite a lot of herbs and not much garlic, lots of butter too! I don't do recipes! or rarely ... so glad you enjoyed the Mint post ... I couldn't find your email - hence this note ..

      Cheers Hilary

  3. dIEDRE ~
    When it comes to English, I'm a complete dunce. I hated that class (and math, too) and was barely able to manage a grade of C.

    Seriously! I can't even tell you what a modifier or a preposition is, let alone a participle.

    What little I know about English I have just picked up by being such a voracious reader. A lot of times I'll write something and KNOW it's wrong, and I'll know HOW to correct it, but what I WON'T know is precisely WHY it's wrong.

    Oh well, I can't be superman at everything. Drinking and Complaining are enough talents for me.

    Fantastic picture at the top with the hummingbird in it!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    Check out my new blog @
    (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

    1. Howdy Reno!

      Ha - you sound like me! When the summary pops up with a tally of mistakes I'm like "I dropped a what where?"

      I did try an app (once) that reads your content back to you. The robotic "voice" depressed me so much I went on a mission to discover how to impart inflection in written words a machine might understand! A recorder works much better, if you don't mind your own voice ;-)

      You noticed the picture! It caught my eye as well - especially with Spring budding out as it is.

      Write away, Reno! You're better than you know.

  4. This used to be a BIG problem for me. Not so much anymore. It took three books and my editor cleaning up my mess, but I've finally got a handle on it. We're nothing if not constantly growing, eh?

    1. Hi Crystal!

      I can't imagine you ever having a problem! But isn't it wonderful when we can say "Okay. I got this!"?
      Yep, growing - and blooming - is what I think writing is all about.

      Thanks, Crystal!

  5. Haven't run out of my shoes yet. And I'm also a runner.
    I didn't know the Nancy Drew books were written by many people. Thanks, I learned something.

    1. Hi Alex!

      Ha! 'out of my shoes' must be a desert thing.
      Regarding Nancy Drew books, anthology - with a twist - comes to mind ;-)

  6. Ah, to dangle by the participle is mild compared to the colloquial speech where I live. When I left to live in the big city in my twenties, It was trial by fire that improved my speech. When I returned twenty years later, I vowed I would never talk that way again. It lasted a week.

    1. Hi Ann!

      My thoughts exactly on vernacular. I didn't think I 'had one' until I spent some time in North Carolina!
      In retrospect, I guess a border town dialect would sound rather unusual.
      I had to giggle at "It lasted a week"!

  7. Hi, diedre; I could have sworn I wrote a comment here the other day, but obviously forgot to click "post". Sheesh! I don't think dangling participles are an issue for me, but too many commas certainly are. We all have our little writing quirks, yes? Grammarly is the program I use, but it often drives me nuts, because it doesn't recognize Canadian English (a mixture of American and British). No matter what, it says my spelling is wrong, so many times! What app are you using? Gender neutral author names are interesting and that way, you're not influenced by stereotypical thinking. The answer to your question is "yes". I started revamping an old memoir and it's currently stuck in rewrite hell. For some reason, the motivation to fix it just isn't there. It needs to be more "meaty", but I don't want to make stuff up.

    1. Hi Debbie!

      We use the same app! Commas kill me as well, too many or not enough. It drives me nuts when I have to find ANOTHER way to say what I mean because the app doesn't recognize southern border dialect. But, to be fair, human editors have questioned me a time or two as well...sigh. Good thing my reading tastes are wide-ranging ;-)
      Absolutely, we all have quirks! I suppose we should be grateful when somebody points out a Bird of Paradise in our Rose bush ;-)
      From what I've read so far, your memoir is as tender and robust as any Texas Angus cut - no salsa required. Dig in, my friend!

    2. Thanks for those kind words. (Referring to The "She" Chronicles, yes?) I don't think you've read this one, though. It's about my time at boarding school, 1968-69. Most of the content has been pulled off the blog, because I was going to try and publish it a couple of years ago. There will be some excerpts coming up during the April A to Z. "a Bird of Paradise in our Rose bush" - that's good! ☺

    3. Not that I don't anyway, but you can bet I'll be watching your posts come April ;-)
      Yes, I was referring to "She" - it's wonderful! I'm wondering why the boarding school days weren't included. Perhaps one day? Can't wait to read the excerpts!

    4. The "SHE" Chronicles are a different concept, told anonymously in the third person. They started out disguised as fiction. The boarding school story is straight, first person memoir. Honestly, I never thought of combining the two, but now you've planted a seed. Thanks! :)

  8. My pseudonym came about as a result of using an initial. My real name is so common that I decided that using it for my writing would just get me mingled with all the others who share the name. I started with one initial and my middle name which later morphed into Arlee. My imagination continued from there.

    As for grammarly sorts of things, I probably break all sorts of rules and ignore properness. I just tend to write what comes into my head and revise little. But then I haven't got too serious about submitting anything either and no one has complained about what I write on my blog posts. Having majored in English I guess that's bad, but I also had a minor in subversive behavior.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi Arlee!

      Ha! Your pseudonym is exactly what I find so fascinating. I like your reasoning in wanting to 'stand apart'. After my first children's book released I was dismayed to find another author with my first - and last - name (Can you believe it?), who writes steamy romance/mysteries.
      Could be that I enjoy your posts so much I don't even notice anything grammatically amiss ;-) Besides, may the bravery of subversiveness ever sift the dregs of mediocrity.
      Thanks for coming by, Lee!

  9. I had no clue that Carolyn Keene was a bunch of writers and not a real person. Wow.

    That sounds like a very good, helpful app.

    I think authors use initials to try to be a little anonymous. Nora Roberts writes under J.D. Robb. The J and D are the initials for two of her sons. Many also try to do something like that, honor people they love. :)

    1. Hello, Lady Chrys!

      I, too, was 'wowed'. Can you imagine being a part of something so engaging - and timeless - and not being able to brag about it because you signed all rights away? Sweet additions to one's memory box I guess.

      In it's quiet, stubborn way the grammar app has been tremendously helpful. I just hope my editor thinks so too ;-)

      As with J.D. Robb, it's those interesting tidbits that fascinate me so. What a cool gesture by Ms. Roberts.


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