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Guest post by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Dangling participles are a bad idea. They’re grammatically wrong, of course, but that doesn’t stop people from using them. But if you want your reader to stay engaged, it’s not only wrong, it’s a bad idea.
Hold on, Laura. I’ve slept since third grade. What’s a participle and why does it dangle?
A participle is a verb form, usually showing an ongoing action or condition but occasionally used as an adjective.
And now we come to the dangling participle.
In the previous example, both verbs shared the subject “I”. A participle clause should always share the subject with the rest of the sentence. When a participle is used without its appropriate noun, it’s dangling, and it makes for some fairly stupid sentences.
This sentence can be repaired with a simple shift:
Okay, I see what you’re saying, but the second subject is probably evident from context. Why should I worry about it?First, what’s evident to the writer who knows what he means to say is not always evident to the reader who is reading to find out.
Secondly, even if a reader can work out the intended meaning, it interrupts the flow of the narrative.
Anything that makes your reader stop forward momentum is a bad idea.
This is why grammar matters. A grammatically-aware reader will find your lack of care irritating. A reader who doesn’t know a dangling participle from a dongle will still know subconsciously or consciously that he finds your story slower going than someone else’s – or worse, than Netflix or Hulu. (Nothing against video media, but I don’t want to just give them my customers.)
Again, this error frequently happens when writers want to vary their sentence structure and rhythm but don’t know quite how to do it.
A dangling participle is fixed by simply adding the relevant subject.
The simple test? Your participle clause shares the subject of your sentence. If that’s not what you meant, rewrite.
No more dangling!
Laura VanArendonk Baugh writes speculative fiction in several flavors, historical fiction, mystery, and non-fiction, because she is bad at branding. However, she is good at grammar and was sent to the office repeatedly for correcting her English teachers (the principal consulted The Chicago Manual of Style and found she was right). She loves teaching about writing and publishing. You can find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.