Column: The slippery slope of fancy roof parties


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

I hope somebody invites me to a party on a roof someday. This not-quite-bucket-list dream of mine would make me feel like I have finally achieved a (literally) high social status. I can picture myself swirling a martini, talking about horses and stocks with some guy wearing a monocle—it would be so luxurious … unless, of course, that roof party happened on a sloped roof.

Inevitably, someone (probably Karl, the mailman) would slip, and I’d have to burst into action, catching poor Karl as he dangled precariously from the edge of the roof. The lesson here? Make sure your party roof is a flat one before you book the venue.

Dangling modifiers are equally as scary as dangling mailmen. To understand what a dangling modifier is (and why we should avoid them), let’s start with understanding modifiers. A modifier is a word or phrase that adds description to another word or phrase. When used correctly, you’ll find modifiers right next to the words they’re describing.

When you see a dangling modifier lurking in a sentence, the sentence will be confusing. Dangling modifiers often show up at the very beginning or end of a sentence:

After spending a week on the solar panel, Mabel unsuccessfully tried to eat the melted chocolate bar. Due to the placement of the first clause, you’d think Mabel had been on the solar panel all week.

When in kindergarten, my mom drove us to school. This sentence implies my mom was a kindergartner when she drove us to school. That can’t be right!

Because of these awkward sentence structures, the modifiers change the meaning from the sentences’ intentions. Allow me to correct the sentences so we can all feel better about life.

Mabel unsuccessfully tried to eat the melted chocolate bar after it had spent a week on the solar panel.

When I was in kindergarten, my mom drove us to school.

So, just like you need to make sure your roof party is happening on a flat roof, you should take care to place your modifiers right next to (before or after) the word or phrase they modify. Doing so will avoid sentence catastrophes (as well as keep our buddy Karl alive).