If there is one grammar term that I never understood until recently, it was "dangling participle." Now that I finally know what it means, I thought I'd explain it here.

participle is a form of a verb. For example, writing and written are participles of the verb to write. 

  • I am writing this blog post (present participle)
  •  I have written this blog post (past participle)


dangling participle is when a present participle, usually at the beginning of a sentence, doesn't modify the subject. As a result it sounds like the wrong person or thing is the subject.


Example #1


Writing this blog post, memories of high school English class came rushing back.


The dangling participle:

  •  Writing this blog post


Why it's a problem: 

  •  Memories of high school English didn't write this blog post.

How to write the sentence correctly: 

  • Writing this blog post, I was flooded by memories of high school English class.

Example #2


Climbing the ladder, the red ball on the roof was easy to spot.


    The dangling participle:

  • Climbing the ladder

Why it's a problem:

  • The red ball didn't climb the ladder


How to write the sentence correctly:

  • Climbing the ladder, Gloria found the red ball on the roof easy to spot.

Example #3


Reading over these examples, my blog post on dangling participles is easy to understand.

The dangling participle: 

  •  Reading over these examples


Why it's a problem:

  • My blog post isn't reading over these examples.


How to write the sentence correctly: 

  •  Reading over these examples, I think (hope!) my blog post on dangling participles is easy to understand.


I realize this is a tricky one, so if you're still confused, you're not alone. Just try at all times to avoid any ambiguity about who the subject is. That should lead you down the right path!


Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, Wait for the Rain, and Bridges. She also provides consulting services to aspiring and published authors. Have questions? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2017 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Comment by Linda Weaver Clarke on March 17, 2017 at 10:41am

Congrats on a great post. This was very well done. I remember watching Oscar and Tim Curry says: "You've got a dangling participle." Haha.


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