Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: danglers (3).

danglers (3). Today: Present-Participial Danglers. Mispositioned words can cause grammatical blunders. The classic example occurs when the wrong noun begins the main clause — that is, a noun other than the one expected by the reader after digesting the introductory participial phrase. E.g.: “The newspaper said that before being treated for their injuries, General Mladic forced them to visit the wards of wounded at the Pale hospital, telling them, ‘here’s what you have done’ and ‘you have also killed children.'” Marlise Simons, “Report Says Serbs Tormented 2 French Pilots,” N.Y. Times, 29 Dec. 1995, at A5. That wording has General Mladic being treated for others’ injuries. Danglers reflect a type of bad thinking. Another manifestation of this error is to begin the main clause with an expletive (e.g., “it” or “there”) after an introductory participial phrase: “After reviewing the aforementioned strategies, it becomes clear that there is no conclusive evidence regarding their success.” Bernard J. Putz, “Productivity Improvement,” SAM Advanced Mgmt. J., 22 Sept. 1991, at 9. (A possible revision: Even a detailed review of those strategies provides no conclusive evidence about how successful they are.) As that example shows, danglers occurring after an introductory word are just as bad as others but are harder for the untrained eye to spot — e.g.: “I have always found John Redwood thoughtful, intelligent and rather convivial. I sincerely hope that we can remain friends after the dust has settled. He has conducted a skilled campaign. Yet, being a thoughtful man, I suspect that in his heart of hearts he wishes some of his supporters . . . would just disappear.” Jerry Hayes, “A White-Knuckle Ride I Cannot Join,” Independent, 30 June 1995, at 21. (The writer here seems to attest to his own thoughtfulness. A possible revision: “Yet because he is a thoughtful man, I suspect that in his heart of hearts he wishes . . . .” Or: “Yet I suspect that, because he is a thoughtful man, in his heart of hearts he wishes . . . .”) For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. Next: Past-Participial Danglers, Gerunds. ————————– Quotation of the Day: “The mechanical details of mere writing have been taught to any one past middle childhood a hundred times — which unfortunately does not mean that he has learned them once.” Henry Seidel Canby, Better Writing 3 (1926).
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