Some people remember that their teachers told them a dangling participle is a bad thing. But that’s all they remember! It’s hard to avoid dangling participles unless you know exactly what they are.

First, a (present) participle is a verb form ending in -ing. Dancing, laughing, eating, drinking, sleeping, dreaming, and so on! (You can also have past participles, but we’ll deal with them in a later article.)

Now let’s use one in a sentence without dangling!

Dancing my way down the garden path, I felt excited as I approached the little house.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Now let’s dangle!

Dancing my way down the garden path, the house instantly made me feel welcome and excited.

The participle (dancing) is dangling because the subject of the sentence (the house) wasn’t dancing! I was. When you use a participle, it should refer to an action performed by the subject of the sentence.

Let’s consider a few more. Try to sort out the danglers from the correct sentences. Which ones are danglers?

  1. Working until the small hours of the morning, the proposal was finally ready for submission.
  2. Studying until the library closed every night, she deserved a little break.
  3. Dangling on the rope that held him captive, the prisoner howled with pain while his captors tortured him.
  4. Considering the impact of global warming, a new bill was passed in the Senate.
  5. Rolling in the grass, the children squealed with delight.
  6. Rolling a cigarette for the last time, the condemned man wondered whether his pardon would be granted.
  7. Smiling in anticipation of a great wine, the cork came easily out of the last bottle he opened.
  8. Bickering and quarreling from start to finish, the dinner was nothing short of a disaster.
  9. Kicking and screaming as loudly as she could, the kidnappers forced the little girl into the waiting car.
  10. Sending what was to be her last text message, her car collided with the oncoming truck.
  11. Roaring in anger, the lion watched the hunters put the bodies of the cubs into the truck.
  12. Realizing that we had to reduce our spending or face certain bankruptcy, our credit cards were locked in our a safe deposit box and used only for emergencies.

And here are the answers!

The danglers: 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12.