Dirty, sexy, grammar – dangling participles

by Julie Frayn on April 15, 2012 in  Dirty, Sexy, Grammar

While some participles might be sexy, and a few a little dirty, the dangling kind are just plain wrong! Please folks, keep those participles in your grammatical pants. We don’t need to see ‘em dangle.

A participle is a verbal form that modifies a noun. In other words, it is a verb that acts like an adjective. The participle has to agree with the noun that is being modified or those participles will be dangling all over the page. And let me tell you, disagreeable danglers are distracting for the reader.

Participles are often used to introduce subordinate clauses (participial phrases) into a sentence. The result is more information, added description, about the noun (the head of the noun phrase) it is modifying.

So participles are subordinate to head. If the participle is dangling, it’s not subordinate. It’s insubordinate. Bad participle. Do you need a spanking? Or maybe just a little flick…

Wearing my pajamas, the mailman greeted me with a big smile. Why he had on my pajamas, I’ll never tell.

Clearly, you need to edit and rewrite to make the right impression and tuck that dangler back into its grammar pants. How about this:

The mailman greeted me with a big smile when I met him at the door, wearing my pajamas.

Just for fun, here are a few more examples of the dangly dudes.

Sipping red wine and writing, my laptop overheated and burned my pants. That talented computer, it has good taste in alcohol.

After rotting into a moldy soup, my mother threw out the bag of cucumbers. My mother, the moldy soup zombie, loves to clean out her fridge.

Darting gaily among the flowers, Mitt Romney and Danielle Smith spotted a hummingbird. Aha! I knew it. What’s that saying about those that doth protest too much?

Well there you have it folks, a bit of participial knowledge to round out your sexy, grammatically correct brains. Dangle elsewhere.


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