Don’t let your participles dangle.

If there’s one thing that really messes with my mood, it’s a dangling participle. I know what you’re thinking – are dangling participles really that bad…? and the answer of course, is YES. Dangling participles are ugly. That’s all there is to it.

How do you recognise (and avoid) dangling participles?

Well first let’s look at what a participle actually is.

A participle is a verb-form that ends in –‘ing.’

Dancing, joking, laughing, singing, working, murdering, eating, squeezing, farting and in fact “dangling” are all participles.

How does a participle dangle?

When the participle in question doesn’t agree with its subject, it is called a “dangling participle”.

The subject performing the act described in the first part of the sentence by the participle must be clear… It’s vital to know WHO in the sentence is doing the murdering, laughing, farting and so on to avoid any confusion. A participle is “left dangling” when it doesn’t have a clear antecedent.

Therefore it is correct to say:

“While gulping down her 14th coca cola, Jane felt the beginnings of a cramp in her tummy.”

Gulping – the participle – relates to Jane – the subject, following directly after the comma. The participle is not dangling.

Now, let’s look at a couple of examples of DANGLING PARTICIPLES.

Example No. 1

While peeing happily into the wind, a badger bit bob’s butt.

This is WRONG.

It is Bob who is peeing happily into the wind, yet the way the sentence is constructed, it reads as if the badger is doing both the happy peeing and the ferocious biting.

While peeing happily into the wind, Bob couldn’t help but notice a pair of very sharp teeth sinking right into the fleshy part of his ass.

Example No. 2

While chatting to Miss ploughberry over a cup of Early Grey tea, an unusual smell accosted Sarah’s nostrils.

This is WRONG.

The subject, which follows the participle, cannot be the smell, because a smell cannot chat. It just can’t, ok.


While chatting to Miss ploughberry over a cup of Early Grey tea, Sarah’s nostrils were accosted by an unusual smell.

Is this correct?

Nope, no, uh-uh. In this case, it makes it seem like the nostrils were doing the chatting. And they weren’t. It is Sarah who is doing the chatting… therefore:

While chatting to Miss ploughberry over a cup of Early Grey tea, Sarah got a whiff of something distinctly shit-related.

So there you have it! Don’t leave your participles dangling because they can cause all sorts of trouble.
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It’s or its?

If you’re one of those people who don’t know when to use an apostrophe when using ITS… here it is, plain and simple:

IT’S - with an apostrophe - means IT IS or IT HAS.


It’s a beautiful day!!
It’s been this sunny for days!

ITS - with NO apostrophe - means BELONGING TO IT.


Look at that pizza! Its cheesy goodness can be seen a mile away!
That advertising agency has lost its flair - I should use a freelancer instead!


Rod Stewart’s fuscia jacket sold on e-bay for a million pounds, despite the fact that IT’S lost most of ITS sequins.

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Your your worst enemy… or something.

You are. What are you? You are bright. You are funny. You are making yourself look like a nana with your incorrect use of the word your in place of YOU ARE.

YOUR - belonging to you.

Can I please wear your Captain Hook outfit to work tomorrow?
Your nose looks thinner since I saw you last Spring.

These are correct!

Now what about:

Your special.”


Your special what?

Your special recipe for koeksisters? Your special friend looks like a man? What?

YOUR means “belonging to you”, finish en klaar.

You are special can be shortened with an apostrophe, like this:

YOURE special.

Now that makes sense!

You’re adorable, you’re so clever. you’re so strong.

Yes! Correct.

Let’s recap:

YOUR = Something that belongs to you.

YOURE = You are.

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Lose vs.loose

This is one of the most common grammar mistakes people make.

The natural assumption is that the longer sound has the double-o and the shorter sound only one.

But this is one of the few words where the opposite is true.


If your belt is too loose, you may lose your pants. (Which is fine if it’s “no pants Friday” but any other day of the week, this is a bad thing.)

Here’s an easy way to remember it. >>>>>> Loose has the same amount of o’s as goose.

Loose like a goose”

Lose has only ONE o. Because it lost one. Get it?

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She’s come undone -

She's Come UndoneShe’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book years ago and loved it, so when I was reminded of it recently on the fabulous goodreads, I ordered it from Kalahari, excited to read it again. The negative reviews on goodreads made me suspect that I would hate it this time around. But, I loved it all over again, loved and hated Dolores Price all over again and found and lost little pieces (and sometimes chunks) of myself in her again. It’s an incredibly well written, epic coming-of-age novel that had me laughing, cringing, hissing and even wiping away a tear in parts. I had to lie down for a little while when I was finished with it. I’m not going to go into the story at all - suffice it to say that any woman who has battled with self worth issues, should pick this book up and dive in, heart first.

View all my reviews

The complementary compliment

Many people are unsure of when to use complement with an ‘e’ and when to use compliment with an ‘i’. So here it is, quick and easy!
  • He paid her a compliment.

  • He took his full complement of staff out for lunch.

  • She received many compliments on the roast beef dinner.

  • The red wine perfectly complemented the roast beef.

  • She found him to be a gentleman in every way - charming, complimentary, but a bit of a windbag.

  • The complementary cocktail went straight to her head; the pastry straight to her hips.

So there you have it!

Compliment is when you say something nice.
Complement is when something completes something else or is free.

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Hauntingly beautiful song and video!!!

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Brilliant! Magic!

Making Future Magic: iPad light painting from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

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New Macbook - yes please!

Sexy, sleek, totally sophisticated… I WANT ONE!!!

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A mouth like a trucker?

If you’ve ever wanted to shout out “Alpha Charlie Echo Echo” with meaning, now’s your chance!

Here’s the full list of the “military Alphabet”, as used by soldiers, sailors, cops, truckers and other interesting people.


Why would you want to know this? Well you might find yourself in a situation where the person driving in front of you has thrown their mcDonald’s bag out of their car window. You call the cops to report it:

N2 outward bound, white vw polo, registration number CHARLIE! ECHO! 6 6 3 4 5, send patrol car immediately!”


You might find yourself having a personality clash with someone from work. In which case you could for instance dial their office number every day for a week and shout out (with a tissue covering the mouthpiece) “FOXTROT! UNIFORM! CHARLIE! KILO! OSCAR! FOXTROT! FOXTROT!” and slam down the phone.

You just never know when you’ll need this fun and handy alphabet. Learn it. Practise it. Use it like a pro.

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Someone worth getting to know!

A short vimeo which lets you get to know the fabulous, talented Miranda July.

Get to Know Miranda July from PAPER Magazine on Vimeo.

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Watch your double negatives!

cyanide and happiness

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God and the grammar police.
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Advice on writing short stories

Whatever you might think of him, Kurt Vonnegut has this advice to give on writing short stories:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

I think it’s great advice, barring possibly the last one, but then who the hell am I to argue with his royal weirdness?

A little misunderstanding?

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This is a blog about writing, film, fiction, English, Engrish and all sorts of things related to language and the correct use thereof!

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