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Middlebury College Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research On-line Grammar Workshop for Peer Writing Tutors Topic: Dangling Participles May, 2007 Mary Ellen Bertolini Why care about grammar rules?

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middlebury college center for teaching learning and research
Middlebury College Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research

On-line Grammar Workshop

for Peer Writing Tutors

Topic: Dangling Participles

May, 2007

Mary Ellen Bertolini

why care about grammar rules

Why care about grammar rules?

Grammar rules were not designed to make your life miserable or to inhibit your creativity or freedom.

Instead, grammar rules help you better communicate exactly what YOU want to say. One error that particularly confuses and perplexes your readers is the problem of

dangling or misplaced modifiers.

so what is a participle like a mermaid it has two identities
So--what is a participle?Like a mermaid, it has two identities.

A participle is a verb form that acts like an adjective.

Present participles end in ing (dancing).

Past participle usually end in ed (danced).

Here are examples of participles (dancing & sunken) acting like adjectives by describing nouns (girl & ship):

The dancing girl twirled around the room.

The sunkenship held many treasures.

not a problem right
Not a problem--right?

But what happens if we move our participles dancing and sunken away from the nouns (girl and ship) that we want them to describe?

The girl twirled around the dancing room.

The ship held many sunken treasures.

Because we have moved our participles, we have changed the meaning of the sentences, and the problem intensifies

when our participles expand into phrases.

slide5
When participles expand into phrases,they become harder to handle, easier to misplace, more likely to dangle.
  • Let’s look as some participial phrases:
    • Dancing around the room . . .
    • Running down the alley . . .
    • Having studied for the exam . . .
now let s try one out in a sentence
Now let’s try one out in a sentence.

Dancing around the room, it became dizzier and dizzier.

What does the participial phrase, “Dancing around the room,” describe?

it?

room?

Neither.

There is NOTHING for our participial phrase to describe--so we say it DANGLES.

Correct the sentence this way:

Dancing around the room, the girl became dizzier and dizzier.

so to correct a dangling participle add the word you want your participle to describe
So--to correct a dangling participle, add the word you want your participle to describe.
  • Dancing around the room, the girl became dizzier and dizzier.

Let’s try another participial phrase in a sentence:

Running down the alley, the garbage can tripped the boy.

Now--what does our participial phrase, “Running down the alley,” describe? garbage can? boy?

Of course, the answer is boy, but our sentence is confusing because our participle is not next to boy. Our participle is misplaced.

slide8
So--to correct a misplaced participle, place the word you want your participle to describe close to your participle.

Correct the sentence this way:

  • Running down the alley, the boy fell over the garbage can.

Participles can enhance your writing, but only if they convey your intended meaning. They will describe whatever is closest to them. It is up to you as writer to make participles describe exactly what YOU want them to describe.

Let’s see what we can do with our last participial phrase:

Having studied for the exam . . .

using participles correctly
Using participles correctly

Having studied for the exam, I felt confident about taking it.

  • What does our participle “Having studied for the exam” describe?
  • It describes I, and we have used our participle correctly.

Remember that participles MUST be right next to what they describe: if they don’t, they are MISPLACED.

Remember that participles MUST have SOMETHING to describe, if they don’t, they DANGLE.

for more information
For more information:
  • Purdue’s OWL site has a great discussion of participles.
  • Come see us in CTLR for one-on-one instruction.

Mary Ellen Bertolini

Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research

Assistant Director, Writing

Lecturer, Tutor in Writing

Library Suite 225

mbertoli@middlebury.edu

middlebury college center for teaching learning and research11
Middlebury College Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research

On-line Grammar Workshop

for Peer Writing Tutors

Topic: Dangling Participles

May, 2007

Mary Ellen Bertolini