Dangling Participles and Prepositions – Tutorial No. 2

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While many editors and English teachers are willing to let danglers slide these days, I’m old school, hardcore. If you’ve left something dangling, fix it. But first you have to find it. In the first tutorial it was easy because the dangler was, literally, dangling off the end of the sentence. Here’s one hidden in the middle. (It’s highlighted in purple.)

An example of the distinction between these two types of relationships we are all familiar with is how your doctor relates to you.     (23 words)

The anti-dangling rule is to write prepositions and participles before their objects, never after. So the next step is to identify the object of the dangler. With what are we all familiar? — ‘example’. I colour objects green.

An example of the distinction between these two types of relationships we are all familiar with is how your doctor relates to you.     (23 words)

To fix a dangler move either the dangling bit or the rest of its phrase, so they are in order starting with the preposition or participle. In this case it’s cleaner to move not just the preposition, but the clause to which it’s attached, like this:

 we are all familiar with … An example of the distinction between these two types of relationships … is how your doctor relates to you.     (23 words)

Now just delete ‘is’ and put a colon or em-dash after ‘relationships’. Then change ‘your’ and ‘you’ to ‘our’ and ‘us’, to agree with the 1st-person plural subject, ‘We’. This requires changing ‘doctor’ and ‘relate’ to their plurals. Now we have this:

We are all familiar with an example of the distinction between these two types of relationships — how our doctors relate to us.     (22 words)

But we can go one step further with this edit. We can ask ourselves, “What is the topic of this sentence?” I’d say ‘example’, because the sentences preceding this one were obviously talking about the ‘two types of relationships’. So let’s make the topic of the sentence the subject of the sentence, like this: (Subject in blue, verb in red)

A familiar example of the distinction between these two types of relationships is how our doctors relate to us.     (19 words)

The video repeats all of this, but in a cooler medium.

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About Copymentor

Australian and US copywriter, creative director and author
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