What a fancy word! Where I went to high school, I doubt if even the instructors knew what "participle" meant. And now, after reading Grammar Girl, I still can’t give you a clear definition.
But I do know this: If your participle phrases are dangling, you’re confusing – or misleading - your readers. Your writing is not clear and easily understood.
So what the heck am I talking about?
I generally call "dangling participle phrases" by a simpler term: "misplaced modifiers."
They look something like this: “Crouching in fear, the wolf threatened the terrified campers.” And then there's “Meandering down the trail, the birds chirped loudly.”
In business, they look like: “As a neighborhood expert, you can count on me to keep you up to date with changes in the marketplace.” Or perhaps “As a first time buyer, I’ll be at your side throughout the entire transaction.”
Do you see what happened in those sentences?
I just wrote that the wolf was crouching in fear; the birds were meandering down the trail; the prospect is a neighborhood expert; and the agent is a first time buyer.
How did it happen?
As Grammar Girl explains it, a participle phrase is a phrase that modifies the subject of a sentence. When the subject is implied or in the wrong place, it grabs on and modifies the wrong word.
The problem is easily solved by tuning the sentence around and putting the subject where it belongs.
“Crouching in fear, the terrified campers were threatened by a wolf.”
“As a neighborhood expert, I can be counted upon to keep you up to date with changes in the marketplace.” Of course, that sentence is pretty self-centered, so it would be better if you left off the expert part and just said “You can count on me…”
Even “Because I stay abreast of homes listed and sold in this neighborhood, you can count on me…” would be a little less abrasive.
If you’d like to know more about participles and participle phrases, do visit Grammar Girl. You’ll find this installment at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/dangling-participles
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Grammar book courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net