Bête Noire III: Excuse me, darling, but you’re dangling again.

Number Three in the countdown, after Bêtes Noires Five and Four.

Many a school child has been stricken with fear at the words “dangling participle.” They see the correction, they understand what the teacher says…sort of…and then they go ahead and dangle another participle with a seemingly blatant disregard of prior feedback.

Part of the issue may lie with the name of this mistake. Dangling participle. They’ve also been called hanging or unattached participles. Shakespeare asks us “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” So then we can call it a different name – a less threatening name – and it would still be the same thing, right? I suppose this might work up to a point, but from experiences trying this renaming technique with other grammatical issues, it only goes so far to ease student anxiety and promote retention of the correct structure. What really needs to happen is that the item should be understood more clearly; perhaps only then will its name no longer be so fearsome. Continue reading