3 Cases of Dangling Participles
Dangling participles are verbs that are intended to refer to a particular noun but that, because of how the main clause of the sentence is crafted, do not support the noun. The main clause, and the subordinate clause (often appearing at the head of the sentence), may in and of themselves be grammatically valid, but they do not match—often with unintentionally humorous results. Here are three sentences that suffer from dangling participles; each is followed by a discussion and a revision.
1. Growing up as an undersized kid, punk music helped him find some sense of belonging.
This sentence erroneously identifies punk music as an undersized kid. To correct this error, a subject that the participle applies to must be inserted at the head of the main clause, which must be further revised to convey the intended idea: “Growing up as an undersized kid, he found some sense of belonging in punk music.” The sentence can also be recast as a simple main clause (“Punk music helped him find some sense of belonging as he grew up as an undersized kid”), but this version is more prosaic.
2. Formally established on May 23, 1947, a primary role of this part-time military force is to conduct surveillance or sovereignty patrols as required.
Here, a primary role, rather than the military force assigned the role, is said to be formally established on a certain date. In this case, the dangling participle can simply be relocated as a parenthetical following the sentence’s subject: “A primary role of this part-time force, formally established on May 23, 1947, is to conduct surveillance or sovereignty patrols as required.”
3. Seemingly perfectly preserved on the outside, the archaeologists were dismayed to find extensive damage within the chamber.
In this sentence, archaeologists are described as being perfectly preserved on the outside. In some cases, the best way to avoid such errors is to thoroughly recast the entire sentence: “The archaeologists were dismayed to find that despite the chamber’s seemingly perfectly preserved exterior, the chamber itself had suffered extensive damage.” (This revision also places the key information at the end of the sentence, resulting in a greater impact.)
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