Monday, March 2, 2009

Is Your Participle Dangling?

I had a dream about dangling participles last night; probably because I had a bowl of chocolate-chip, fudge brownie, chocolate ice cream followed by half a jar of green olives before I went to bed. Instead of sugarplums dancing in my head, there were dangling participles hovering over the bedpost. Sounds kinda' kinky doesn’t it?

What is a participle? It's a word ending in “ing” and sometimes “ed”. It looks like a verb but acts as an adjective. A participle is used to describe other words in a sentence.

Dangling participles are writing faux pas. They are often humorous without intending to be, but can be both confusing and annoying when trying to convey a message. In order to avoid dangling participles in your writing, be specific. Avoid generalizations.

Two examples of generalizations are “there is”, and “it”. Make sure a noun or verb is in the sentence for the participle to clearly modify. A modifier is a word or group of words that describe other words in a sentence.

Whew! Let’s see now, dangling participles, verbs, adjectives, modifiers, there’s a lot to think about. Let’s have fun with dangling participles and their sometimes humorous, but confusing messages.

Incorrect: Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided. (Is the dangling participle writing carefully?)
Correct: While you are carefully writing, avoid dangling participles.

Incorrect: Flitting from flower to flower, the baseball player watched the bee. (I don’t think the baseball player is flitting from flower to flower, but you never know.)
Correct: The baseball player watched the bee flitting from flower to flower.

Incorrect: After being cracked open, the cook boiled the egg. (Oh, oh violence in the kitchen! I hope the cook wasn’t cracked open before the egg was boiled.)
Correct: The cook boiled the egg after it was cracked open.

Incorrect: Leaping off the cliff, I saw the mountain goat land safely 20 feet below me. (Look out below; the goat and I are on our way down!)
Correct: Leaping off the cliff, the mountain goat landed safely 20 feet below me.

So, folks, a dangling participle is not some kinky physical problem. It is a grammar problem. When writing, make your communication clear.

Always remember never to eat chocolate-chip, fudge brownie, chocolate ice cream and green olives before going to bed. I not only have a problem with dangling participles, I have a stomachache.


Anonymous said...

Hello! :)

Pam said...

Hi Thankful Paul. I like the pic of the dog.