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How to Edit Modifiers

self-editing, modifiers, tisha martin author editor, fiction, nonfiction

How to Edit Modifiers

Wait a minute, you say. Dangling, misplaced, or simultaneous modifiers does not fall into the category of punctuation. Eh, you have a point. However, might I propose that a dangling modifier has everything to do with commas, and that does point to using the best sentence structure for good punctuation results. Hang on—and I’ll show you what I mean.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, take notice. Misplaced modifiers are like the creepy crud of winter, and certainly not meant to be misused in your manuscript.

Why We Even Use Modifiers in the First Place

A modifier use in the beginning of your sentences modifies (or supports) the subject of the sentence. If that’s out of place, your sentence causes a misreading, which is not nice.

What IS a Modifier??

A modifier is a word usually ending in “ing” and is part of a word or phrase. A modifier describes the action or the subject. Feel better? I hope so!

What Are Poorly-placed Modifiers?

  • If the modifier does not describe the subject
  • If the modifier cannot be connected to the subject
  • If the modifier causes the reader any confusion about the subject and the verb’s purpose of the sentence
  • If the modifier happens at the same time the subject is doing the action

Dangling Modifier – does not connect to the subject of the sentence

Misplaced Modifier – is unclear about the action taking place

Simultaneous Modifier – creates confusion because two actions are happening at the same time

Let’s Dive In!

Dangling Modifiers


  • [Running down the street], the construction cones guided the cars


  • Well, construction cones can’t run down the street, so this structure is unclear.
  • The cars drove in between the construction cones lining the street.
  • We made the cars the subject of the sentence, which it should be anyway, and this is a much clearer sentence.


  • [After offering a slice of bacon], the traveler was nourished to keep going.


  • Okay, questions. . . Who offered the slice of bacon? And how can one piece of bacon nourish anyone?? I’d want a heaping pile! This sentence is uber unclear on so many levels!
  • After offering the weary traveler a plate of bacon, Rudy saw the man’s strength return.
  • We inserted a clear subject, completed the modifier so that it made sense, and gave the traveler more bacon!!

Misplaced Modifiers


  • The professor wrote a book about his experience in Prague on Saturday.


  • Hmm, when did he write the book? Or when did he have the experiences? The action is totally unclear here.
  • On Saturday the professor wrote a book about his experience in Prague.
  • We placed the adverb at the beginning of the sentence, which establishes the professor’s action. Now we know what actually happened!


  • I met with my writer’s group where we talked about our characters’ actions on Tuesdays.


  • So your characters only have actions on Tuesdays. What do they do on the other days? 
  • I met with my writer’s group on Tuesday where we talked about character action.
  • We moved the adverb to when the group actually meets, and we adjusted the subject being talked about so that it made better sense.

Simultaneous Modifiers

Note: I have to say that this one is my favorite because I’ve committed this offense myself, and chuckle now when I catch it. This one truly is a psychological trick, but if we think through each action, this is a super easy fix!


  • Taking her shoes off, she put the milk in the fridge.


  • She cannot take her shoes off and put the milk away at the same time. Not even if she’s a main character from your latest sci-fi or fantasy tale—there are certain rules that cannot be broken.
  • After taking off her shoes, she put the milk in the fridge.
  • We made the first part past action, and made the second part present action.


  • Hugging her parents, she tore into the bag of goodies.


  • Again, this is impossible to do both at once. (No…not even if your character has two sets of hands! It’s just wrong.) 
  • Grateful, she hugged her parents before tearing into the bag of goodies.
  • We set each action up as happening separately, with the most obvious order happening first. (Thanking and then opening.)

Using well-placed modifiers is important because presentation and sentence understanding makes a world of difference to an editor, agent, publisher, and readers. That may seem counterintuitive because the writing is equally important, but it’s the presentation that tends to enhance your credibility as a writer. (Especially if you self-publish and are doing your own first-draft editing.)

Next month, we’ll look at some more ways to edit the punctuation in your manuscript, but for now. . .

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

What are some of your “pet” dangling modifiers?

Are there any of these sentences you would reword?

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Author Interview: David Rawlings, The Baggage Handler


I am very excited to introduce my friend David to you. When I first met David Rawlings, we were at our first ACFW conference. (For my non-writer readers, that’s American Christian Fiction Writers conference held each year – a huge to-do and so fun!)

Well, it was at the end of the day, and a small group of us had gathered for a late-night brainstorming session. The funny part about writers and brainstorming…

No one talked. N-o-t-h-i-n-g.

We just sat around, staring at each other, nervously smiling, perhaps expecting the other person to jump into the fray. So I did. After I shared my conundrum with my fiction series, David pipes in with stellar suggestions, with me scribbling like there was no tomorrow.

So. Yep. That’s how we met. But here’s what’s really cool about it. We didn’t bump into each other again until after the post-conference session, and David’s friendliness and encouragement was a boost — writers sharpening writers. But honestly, I think that’s just the person David is. 

And I can tell you that The Baggage Handler is going to be on your wish list or purchase cart by the end of this interview. At least, that’s what David and I hope will happen. Without further ado, here’s The Baggage Handler with David Rawlings. 

What image was an inspiration for you when writing The Baggage Handler?

The crowds of people that surround baggage carousels in an airport. Each with their own baggage. Literally.

I’ve seen some pretty interesting people in my airline travels, as I’m sure you have. I love that you chose three characters, all from various places in life where most readers can relate. Describe David, Gillian, and Michael each in one word or brief sentence.

Good, so do I. David is a hothead who’d rather be right than happy (and no, he’s not named after me). Gillian lives in the shadow of her sister – that’s why her self-esteem is stunted. Michael is being made to pay for his father’s lack of achievement by being forced to live his father’s dream.

What is your best (or worst) airport experience? Have you every grabbed the wrong suitcase?

Worst experience: I went to Manila in the Philippines and my suitcase didn’t appear on the carousel after my 12-hour flight. I filled in all this paperwork (written in really broken English) then went with our Conference group to the hotel without a change of clothes. My suitcase was delivered to the hotel hours later. It had been opened, everything was soaking wet and there was also an envelope full of US dollars from “the airline” in apology. I still cringe when I wonder what went on with that suitcase.
Best experience: on the way home from Nashville to South Australia in 2016, my Nashville to LA flight was cancelled. Without that flight, I don’t make the flight to Sydney, and I don’t make the flight to Adelaide. God looked after me – I was re-routed through Atlanta and made my connecting flights by 13 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes respectively. It was my best flight because I figured God was handling it, so I’d enjoy it. And when I arrived at Adelaide Airport, we were even five minutes early.

Hey, that’s after we met – but, wow, what a wild flight ride! Have you ever had the chance to speak with a baggage handler to get his perspective of his job? 

No. Although my daughter’s friend at school has a baggage handler father. Nice guy.

Now that would be fun! I bet he had some stories to tell… What do you hope readers will come away with from reading The Baggage Handler?

Thoughts about their own life. We all carry baggage – especially those who deny they’ve got any – and I’d like the story to start a reflection on what that might be. For them to perhaps consider that carrying their baggage may not be what’s best for them.

And I really like that because I get the sense of hope and freedom. For fun, and because your bio just screams it, who is your favorite sports team and why?

You’ve asked the right guy. I’m a sports nut, so here goes:

Australian rules football = The Adelaide Crows
Australian rugby league = Cronulla Sharks
NFL = Kansas City Chiefs
Major League Baseball = San Francisco Giants
NHL = Nashville Predators
NBA = Boston Celtics
English soccer = Blackburn Rovers
I could go on, but I think you’ve got the point by now. I’ll follow anything.

Haha, I’m sure! Thanks so much for stopping by today, David, and for sharing your debut novel and a bit of your life with us. I’m getting my copy of The Baggage Handler in the mail very soon, and I cannot, cannot, can not wait to read it!

The Baggage Handler

When three people take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, their lives change forever. A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job. A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding. And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive. When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcases from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave. In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.

Rawlings Low Res Colour-2 for InstaAbout David

David Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father-of-three who loves humor and a clever turn-of-phrase. Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication. Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face.

Get in Touch with David

Don’t miss another book update! (David’s got another book launching soon!!)

Where To Find The Baggage Handler

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The Liebster Award — to encourage new bloggers

Leibster Award Tisha Martin Author Editor historial fiction new blogFirst off, I’d like to thank David Rawlings (click his name for his thought-provoking blog) for nominating me for the Liebster Award. David’s been such an encouragement to me, from the first time I met him at ACFW in 2016, in Nashville. We sat in a brainstorming group late at night, and he was the first to take interest in my plotting woes and help me work through them. I’m delighted to call him a friend.

The Liebster Award

This is how the Leibster Award works: it is an award given by bloggers to fellow bloggers and aimed to encourage writers. The rules for the Liebster Award are as follows:

  • Thank the person who has nominated you for the award and link to their blog
  • Write some random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate up to 11 people for the award (comment on their blog to let them know)
  • Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions

Random facts about myself:

  • I’ve trained three horses: a pony, a Paint, and a mustang Paint.
  • I was born premature and my parents were told my twin and I would be deaf and blind and unable to live a normal, regular life. I guess God had other plans.
  • I graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s in ten years, debt free.
  • I started working when I was 14. My first job was at a greenhouse which is my all-time favorite place to be. The beauty of flowers is so inspiring.
  • My desk is never clean and I sometimes know where things are. (Okay, I guess that isn’t a random fact…)
  • I’ve never broken any bones.
  • I secretly wish I owned Belle’s library, and as a child, I was secretly in love with Adam Cartwright from Bonanza. Some childhood dream, eh?
  • When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
  • I started writing when I was the ripe old age of eight and I almost plagiarized. Well…I guess there’s nothing new under the sun, but if you’ll keep reading, you’ll understand why.

My 11 questions to answer:

Who were your favorite authors as a child? Why? 

Growing up on a farm, I enjoyed the outdoors as much as I could, but when winter shut me inside, books were my best friends. I spent many Saturday afternoons reading Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny, and the High Hurdles series by Lauraine Snelling. I loved mystery and horses, and if it could be combined into one book then that was bliss. I could list lots more series but these were my favorite.

Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, and if so, where?  

Oh, what a question! I have always wanted to visit Germany and the surrounding countries for the historical buildings, beautiful mountains, and the un-sweet sweets. If you’ve ever sampled Deutsche Kuche Kässe, you’re missing out!

What is your favorite kind of weather?

My favorite kind of weather is a where the sun is peeking through the color on a crisp, fall day.

Why do you blog?

I blog because, like many other writers, I have time just sitting in a barrel waiting to be drawn up and used. 😉

What started you writing? 

I started writing when I was eight years old. I reinvented Little Women. The characters were now me and my three sisters. I wrote the six-page story on chunky-ruled notebook paper. It’s titled “Three Sisters,” and stuffed in my old journals in a box somewhere. What really started me writing was Tall and Proud by Vian Smith, and I wrote about it in another blog post. Vian Smith wrote with such honesty and vivid characters that I wanted to write like that. I created a story set in Nevada (Bonanza, anyone? 🙂 ) during the late 1880s. From there, it morphed into 16 hand-written books on college-ruled notebook paper and bound with pieces of ribbon. This series of books is now known as my work-in-progress, To Rise Up, set in the Midwest during WWII. Amazing how things change. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

What are the challenges of being an author/writer?

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Motivation only comes from within. People can encourage me all day long (which is very nice and I am thankful for that), but if I don’t actually sit down and write then I’m not fulfilling a worthy calling. To keep myself motivated, I have Pandora playing (usually music-only movie soundtracks and upbeat classical music, or Big Band if I’m really on a kick), or I scour Pinterest for inspirational photos of what I’m writing.

If you could choose a place to write where would it be?

A place where the scenery reminds me of a summery fall and where I can look out a window at beautiful, colorful leaves. Okay, just give me a mural.

What difference does it make being a Christian and an author?

Hmm, for me, there’s not much difference. I’m a Christian who happens to write. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write so that God can be glorified and others may be encouraged.

What’s your work in progress?

I have several works in progress.

  1. A WWII historical home front novel, To Rise Up that’s completed but in the last editing stages.Here’s the blurb:
    There’s more than just a war on—there’s a battle brewing between father and daughter. Sixteen-year-old Laurie goes against her father’s wishes, while battling her stepmother’s recent death and her own physical illness, to retrain retired cavalry horses for the war effort.
  2. A WWI historical home front novel that’s in the beginning stages of being written.Here’s the blurb:
    Caught in their wealthy uncle’s espionage ring, two brothers must fight to protect each other until lies and deceit drive them apart.

Who is your ideal audience?

My ideal audience likes to relate with somber topics with a twist of hope and humor to highlight that life is always on-the-go and something funny can always be found through it.

My ideal audience likes stories that are similar to movies such as…oh, dear, I can’t think of any comparisons, since I don’t usually watch that many movies. This will have to be a future blog post. Good motivation to come back!

My ideal reader is someone who:

  • loves the American home front during the world wars
  • struggles with family relationships and broken dreams
  • sees that God is all-present in their situation and is there to reach down and lift them up
  • wants to draw authenticity and depth of situations from everyday life in the lives of characters that could very well mirror their own
  • desires to see the splashes of humor in seemingly hopeless situations

So, my blog nominees:

Crystal Caudill, a fantastic historical romantic suspense writer, fellow writer, and prayer warrior. It’s great to go on writing retreats with her. (We fill up on enough tea to make a balloon swell.) Visit her blog The Write Call and sign up for her newsletter that’s sure to tickle your funny bone more than once.

Jessica Stefani is a historical fiction/time travel writer who has been instrumental in our Unraveling History Critique group. I’ve also enjoyed going to writer’s conferences with her. Hop on over to her engaging blog as she talks about writing, juggling the mom/writer life, and thought-provoking topics.

Cathryn Swallia writes historical fiction with humor, depth, and romance.  Also a key contributor to our Unraveling History Critique group, I have enjoyed her engaging comments and interesting information. You’ll really enjoy her blog, The Cooperjack Journal, filled with historical research information, animal tales, and inspiring life stories.

Please follow their blogs. You will be as encouraged as I have been encouraged. In laughter and inspiration. Happy reading!

Winners from the first giveaway post!! Drum roll please….

  • Judy G.
  • Susanne M.
  • Mary T.
  • Paula S.
  • Amy C.
  • Amanda M.

Congratulations, ladies! Winners have been contacted via email.

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Blogging de-bunked

Mary Jaksh over at Write-to-Done offers a very credible argument for the myth that has writers believing that blogging is deader than a door nail.

Visit Mary’s awesome article.

And after you’ve read it, skip back over here and share your opinions!

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