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Chapter 6 - Dangling Participles

This article is about Chapter 6 - Dangling Participles — enjoy your reading!

1:56 min read
  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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“When writing, your participle might dangle.”

Here’s a biggie. Many highly educated people write sentences with dangling participles in them. Careful and knowledgeable readers—as in your boss or professor—know all about danglers and avoid them like the plague.

Dangling Participles - An Overview

At first, I wanted to name the Oops Me book Does Your Participle Dangle? Alas, my publisher and my wife nixed that incredibly clever idea.

Why focus on the problem of the dangling participle?

Conversations at Cocktail Parties

Whenever I go to a cocktail party, I’ll go get my soda water and lime (yeah, right), and then mill around, trying to engage in some conversation. After the traditional HeyHowYew (I’m from the South) and the inevitable games of DoYaKnow, the conversation inexorably turns to “Say, Ed, what do you do for a living?”

I never know how to answer. If I say, “I’m a lawyer,” then that’ll invite all those knee-slapping jokes about skunks and lawyers and the relative lengths of skid marks.

But I can’t say I’m a lawyer, because I don’t do traditional lawyering. Instead, I teach lawyers how to improve their writing. So when I say, “I teach lawyers how to write,” that inevitably brings howls of laughter and the rejoinder, “Well, it ain’t working, is it?”

So you teach people how to write

And then, as surely as crab grass takes over my lawn in summer, the conversation goes something like this:

“So you teach people how to write. Well, I’ve always prided myself on my writing. I mean, I know all about dangling participles and all that.”

For some reason, when the topic of writing comes up, people always want to say they know all about dangling participles, as if writing correctly without dangling participles forever marks someone as thoroughly knowledgeable in the art of writing.

Of course, I then proceed to ask my conversationalist to give me an example or two and to distinguish between present and past participles. At that point the conversation tends to break down, and I go looking for another soda and lime.

It would be nice if everyone knew about dangling participles, for they rank as the second most frequently occurring grammatical mistake—right behind subject-verb disagreements.


Previous: Let’s now fix the chapter title…

Next: Introductory Adjectival Phrases

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Have a discussion about this article with the community:

  • trench
    Is this supposed to be a dangling article? Where is the on-topic content? I’m not here to learn about alt book titles and cocktail parties.
    LikeReply 32 years ago
  • Martin L Hedington
    Martin L Hedington
    go on....
    LikeReply 48 years ago
  • Darren Hedley
    Darren Hedley
    I clicked on this page to learn about dangling participles, see some examples of bad and good usage. It seems that I had different expectations than the author.
    LikeReply 68 years ago


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