I don’t wear white after Labor Day, I don’t talk with my mouth full, and thanks to Miss Arnold, I don’t dangle my participles.
When I was in high school, one of my English teachers did such a great job of teaching me how to avoid a dangling participle that I never forgot it. Her simple example to the class was, “Eating slop, I saw some pigs.” Since the phrase “eating slop” is at the beginning of the sentence, that means that “eating slop” is describing the word “I” and not the word “pigs.” Yuck! Happily, this sentence is easily revised this way: “I saw some pigs eating slop.”
Even good writers will find themselves dangling a participle every now and then, but thanks to Miss Arnold, I know to look for these in my writing and in that of clients whose books I edit. And now, children can learn to avoid the dreaded dangling participle as well.
For several years now I’ve been reviewing books from NetGalley, and I recently came across a clever one for children, “Don’t Dangle Your Participle” by Vanita Oelschlager. She and artist Mike Desantis do a terrific job of illustrating for young readers and writers what they are really saying when they use a dangling participle. For instance, one sentence read, “While riding his skateboard in the park, a deer almost ran into Lester.” The artwork shows exactly what the sentence describes: a deer riding a skateboard through the park. Another page of the book clears things up with this sentence: “While riding his skateboard in the park, Lester was almost hit by a deer.” This time, Lester is shown on the skateboard as a deer hops over him. This book is a charming way to teach young readers and writers how to avoid a dangling participle, and now that I think of it, a few adults I know could benefit as well!