Rantings of a sub-editor

February 12, 2010


Filed under: danglers,grammar — substuff @ 1:39 pm
Tags: , ,

I love a good dangling participle. The name alone makes me smirk. Check it out:

“Consumers are very clear on what Fairtrade means and they understand that, by buying Fairtrade products, the producers in developing countries see real benefits,” says [Fairtrade person].

Canya tell what it is yet?

In this sentence, to the grammatically anal, it is the producers who are buying the Fairtrade products – and consumers are very clear on this.

Let me dig out some more… The TalkTalk dictionary (who knew there was such a thing?) offers up the following:

Walking back home yesterday, a tree nearly fell on my head.

If properly secured, you shouldn’t be able to remove the cover.

Here, the tree is walking home rather than the person, and the person is properly secured and therefore unable to remove the cover.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage offers, from a speech made by Lord Belstead on Radio 4 in 1988 following the resignation of Lord Whitelaw as Leader of the House of Lords (I do sometimes question the word ‘Modern’ in the book’s title!):

Being unique, I am not going in any way to imitate him.

He meant Lord Whitelaw was unique, obviously. But the position of the participle (‘being’) at the start of the sentence, automatically links to the subject in the following clause (‘I’).

And some funny ones, from TwoBells.com:

Leaping off the cliff, I saw the mountain goat land safely 20 feet below me.

Running with courage in their veins and determination in their hearts, the beaches around Troy were soon overrun by Achilles and his Myrmidons.


My own attempt at being funny:

Applying a second coat of lipstick, he thought again how beautiful she was.

To avoid ’em is simple: just make sure the first word of the sentence applies (that’s the participle) to the first word after the comma (that’s the subject).

Sneakily posting my blog, I kept one ear open for an editorial approach from the rear.
Listening to Mike singing the praises of his Pantone mug, I had a sudden realisation that he was as much of a nerd as me. Just in the design world.


I leave you with this, a sentence to which I was so tempted to add the word ‘international’, just for good measure.

Only 2% of global world supply of cocoa is currently certified.


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