Notes from writing class - Dangling Participles


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, and sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.


Dangling Participles

Ok I’m a dork. I’ve always gotten a giggle every time I heard this, assuming it was a euphemism for something else that could be dangling… and you wonder why I like to write erotica?

But, now that the giggling is out of my system, let’s define this term.

What is a participle?

A participle is a verb that acts like an adjective. The present participle form of a verb usually ends with "ing." Swim (verb)ing (present participle) = swimming

To use it as an adjective, it has to modify something. Swimming Pool.  Swimming determines the type of pool it is (though I don’t really know what other kind of pool it would be. LoL. )

Ok so we know what a participle is, but to get to how they dangle, you will need to know what a participle phrase is.

This is a phrase that uses a participle to modify the subject of the sentence. (I thought we left sentence diagraming back in elementary school… sheesh!)

Swimming in the ocean, I spotted some seaweed.

Swimming in the ocean = participle phrase. Swimming is the participle. It modifies “I” the subject.

Now that we have the basic on what a participle and participle phrase is, we can move on to watching it dangle. LoL.

A Dangling Participle is a participle phrase where the subject is missing.

Swimming in the ocean, seaweed brushed against my toes.

In this blatant example, you can see there is something missing here. Swimming in the ocean, in this case, attaches to seaweed instead of me.

Swimming in the ocean, I felt seaweed brush against my toes.

So remember now that a dangling participle is not a dirty word, but if it’s left to dangle you won’t know who it belongs to. Participle phrases need their subjects.

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