Warning – Your participle phrases may be dangling!

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

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.

man dangling from a branchBut 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.grammar book 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

Image courtesy of kibsri at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grammar book courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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Melissa Spittel
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Westminster, MD
"Achieving Results Together "

Way back when in English class, I vaguely remember learning the many parts of a sentence. Now all I can remember is noun, verb and adjective. Thanks for the refresher on dangling participles!

Mar 15, 2017 01:34 PM #10
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Yikes, this one made me confused. I think you took some sentences off my AR profile lol.

Mar 15, 2017 04:50 PM #11
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

                        Thank  you Marte Cliff 

Mar 18, 2017 08:07 PM #12
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

Thank you Kathy Streib - inclusion in your weekly roundup is indeed an honor.

Mar 18, 2017 08:30 PM #13
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker

Good morning Marte. Always nice to read your reminders of how to improve our writing! Thanks! Enjoy your day!

Mar 19, 2017 06:10 AM #14
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
"Franklin MA Homes"

Good morning, Marte Cliff great lesson and I'm always conscious of that...and have caught myself and shuffled the phrase around before posting...

Mar 19, 2017 06:11 AM #15
Nina Hollander
RE/MAX Executive | Charlotte, NC - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

Hi Marte, fortunately I came from a generation when we were taught to diagram sentences starting in 4th grade. So I'm probably more aware of these issues than many who didn't suffer through that particular exercise. 

Mar 19, 2017 06:13 AM #16
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Marte, as always, thanks for filling in what I slept through in high school. I have been a 30+ year project for my well-spoken grammatically correct wife. She's my grammar girl. 

Mar 19, 2017 07:48 AM #17
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Good old English - so many ways to screw it up!


Mar 19, 2017 10:14 AM #18
Mick Michaud
Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107 - Granbury, TX
Your Texas Lifestyle is Here!

A little "Yoda"ish in sentence structure, is it not?

Mar 19, 2017 10:31 AM #19
Chris Lima
Atlantic Shores Realty Expertise - Port St Lucie, FL
Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you.

Thank you, Marte.  Sadly, grammar and punctuation are not my strong suit.  Having lived in Florida for quite some time, I am more familiar with hanging chads than dangling participles.

Mar 19, 2017 01:45 PM #20
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Thanks for another grammar lesson., Marte. I remember these from school but I perhaps did not learn the lesson as well as I should have - I am guilty of this from time to time. I appreciate the reminder!


Mar 19, 2017 02:00 PM #21
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Marte - I have a confession.  I know all of these things. However, am am careless and need the grammar police.

Mar 19, 2017 02:39 PM #22
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

I find that reading things aloud sometimes helps me when I have made a mistake like that.  Helps you hear how it is coming across.

Mar 19, 2017 06:27 PM #23
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

Chris Ann Cleland Reading it aloud is always a good proofreading tactic. That is, as long as we slow down and read every word.

Mar 19, 2017 07:31 PM #24
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

I read those sentences, and knew something was wrong, but didn't know what it was called! Thanks for the grammar tip.

Mar 20, 2017 03:47 AM #25
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

Kat Palmiotti I've always called them misplaced modifiers. In the long run, it doesn't matter what we call them, as long as we avoid them!

Mar 20, 2017 08:54 AM #26
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great post. Makes us stop and think about what we're writing about!  

Mar 20, 2017 08:30 PM #27
Nick & Trudy Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtors, Philly Main Line

I was never good a English grammar and I know there are so many rules which I break. Will have to re-read this again to make sure I understand it fully.

Mar 21, 2017 07:57 AM #28
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

Nick & Trudy Vandekar I've found that many times just stopping to read what you wrote helps eliminate a lot of errors. Does it SOUND right? Does it make sense as written?

Mar 21, 2017 09:31 AM #29
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