Let’s take a look at regular, non-danglin’ modifiers first. These are words or phrases that, um, modify something. Imagine that! Grammar Girl points out that “almost” is a modifier that, depending on where you place it in a sentence, can change the whole meaning.
She almost finished every book she started.
She finished almost every book she started.
Not the same thing, eh? Good thing we're writers and we obsessively scrutinize each and every sentence we write, choosing and placing each word with absolute purpose.
Look at it, just hanging there
Dangling modifiers commit the crime of describing something that isn’t mentioned in your sentence, so they sound (often to amusing effect) like you’re describing something else.
Walking into the bar, the vodka called to me.
Do you picture a bottle of vodka walking into a bar and calling your name? A better way to phrase this would be to specify who walked into the bar.
I walked into the bar and the vodka called to me.
Alone, that mistake seems obvious. But when you're having one of those 2k+ writing sessions, those darn danglers can really sneak in there. Line editing is a great time to check and correct these guys.
Get it some bifocals
Squinting modifiers are tricky little things. These are modifiers placed in a sentence between two words or phrases it could modify, and the reader doesn’t know which you mean.
Writers who drink often are successful.
So frequent drinking makes a writer successful? Or drinking makes a writer successful frequently? All this squinting has made me thirsty – pass the vodka.