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.