Since we’ve talked about mangled words this week, why not keep going and spotlight some of those infamous danglers and mismatched modifiers?
Writing Tip for Today: Strunk & White warns writers against creating dangling participles, which violates this rule: A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject. If the parti phrase is preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition, nouns in apposition, adjectives and adjectival phrases come under the same rule if they begin the sentence.
Ay! Sound like gibberish? Perhaps these examples will help:
Wrong: Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.
Correct: I bought the dilapidated house very cheap. The house was dilapidated, not the speaker.
Wrong: On arriving in Chicago, his friends met him at the station. His friends didn’t arrive, he did.
Correct: On arriving in Chicago, he was met at the station by his friends. Oh! But isn’t this passive? You betcha. Maybe better: He arrived in Chicago. His friends met him at the station.
Often, laugh-out-loud writing involves roaming body parts, especially traveling eyes.
He took her arm up the stairs.
Her eyes roamed the room.
He dropped his eyes.
He stared at her with fresh eyes.
Her eyes shot out the window.
She threw up her hands.
He dropped his head. OW!
I’m sure you can think of more. Some are rather unavoidable, but instead of eyes, substitute gaze. He took her arm in his and together they went upstairs. If you know a less awful substitute for throwing up one’s hands, I’d love to hear about it. And if you tend to shoot off your mouth, be careful.
Try This! Look over your work in progress (WIP) and see if any of these danglers or roving body parts are present in your work. Laugh heartily and then fix them.