Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: danglers (2).

danglers (2). Today: The ubiquity of danglers. Despite the sloppiness of danglers in general, they have been exceedingly common even among grammarians. For example, a biographical entry on Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the best-selling grammarian of the early 19th century, condemned his participial habits: “In spite of his proverbial credit as an authority, his own style was by no means a model of excellence; it was not impeccable even on grammatical grounds, the ‘misallied participle’ being only too frequent.” 3 Chamberss Cyclopaedia of English Literature 740 (1903). The same habit can be found in other grammarians of repute — e.g.: o “Never having been taught as a system in any school, but only as a division of some other branch, no special importance was ever attached to [punctuation].” Edmund Shaftesbury, One Hundred Lessons in Punctuation 5 (1893). o “Even admitting that a really compelling style is the result of years of cultivation, much scholarly writing is certainly worse than it needs to be.” Donald J. Lloyd, “Our National Mania for Correctness,” in A Linguistics Reader 57, 57 (Graham Wilson ed., 1967). Likewise, danglers have appeared in the work of reputable fiction writers. For example, Herman Melvilles famous short story “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1856) contains seven danglers. See Leedice Kissane, “Dangling Constructions in Melville’s ‘Bartleby,'” 36 Am. Speech 195 (1961). All this has led one commentator to suggest that danglers are mere peccadilloes: “The loosely related participle phrase occurs pretty frequently in modern usage. Though grammar, insisting on the pure adjectival relationship, is against it, tradition is on its side; and, provided the result is not patently incongruous, it is not too lightly to be condemned.” G.H. Vallins, The Pattern of English 56-57 (1956; repr. 1957). Other commentators are less forgiving: “In my daily work [as an editor], the presence of a participle at the portals of a statement is as ominous as the buzzing of a rattlesnake in my path.” Eugene S. McCartney, Recurrent Maladies in Scholarly Writing 59 (1953). For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. Next: Present-Participial Danglers. ————————– Quotation of the Day: “To write well is at once to think well, to feel rightly, and to render properly; it is to have at the same time intellect, soul, and taste.” Buffon (as quoted in John Mantle Clapp & Homer Heath Nugent, How to Write 1 (1930)).
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