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Patricia Boyd

OMG, Carol, you've nailed it to a tee (and to a tree)! Or should I say, "Reading your humorous letter full of danglers, you really made me laugh"?

Here are my two most memorable dangling incidents as a copyeditor:

1. Once, I reworded something like "Driving around the tight curve, my McFlurry spilled on my lap" to "As we drove around the tight curve, my McFlurry spilled on my lap" to avoid the dangler. Told the author why I made the change. He nixed the rewording and inserted "While" at the beginning of the sentence to "fix" the dangler! He did this for a good number of his bad danglers.

2. On another book, I had reworded a bad dangler in the very first paragraph of the manuscript. The author had approved the change, and I sent the cleaned-up manuscript back to the publisher for typesetting. I happened across the printed book sometime later. There, in the first paragraph, was a new dangler, very similar to the one I had originally reworded: "Being tall, muscular, and strong, many people seem afraid of me." [Details changed, but structure and idea the same.] Unfortunately, my name is in the acknowledgments as copyeditor.

Carol Saller

Patricia, you've put your finger on the laugh-or-cry aspect of misplaced-modifier constructions. One I encountered recently made me laugh out loud: "At a South Side bar, they shoot each foreigner passing through the doorway cold, appraising looks."



Maurianne Dunn

A personal favorite sentence I came across a few years ago was in an article about ghost towns: "The town of Grafton died after 30 years of trying."

T Tiritilli


Patricia Boyd

For real, that South Side sentence? That's hilarious! And Maurianne, yours is pretty funny, too! By the way, is there another term besides dangler for the Grafton sentence? Vague antecedent? I can often recognize errors or awkwardness, but since I'm not an English major, I don't always know the term for the problem.


This is hilarious. I have a lot of direct mail clients, and while I let them stretch the rules at times, I try to impress upon them that danglers just make them look ignorant. @Patricia Boyd, the truth is, English majors generally don't study grammar. Instead, we filled our brains with the beautiful works of Chaucer and Fitzgerald and the like (while honing our writing skills along the way). I'm sure I learned these things at some point in grade or high school, but mostly I've just read a lot of Bryan Garner (among other language mavens, including Carol).


So you've met that author too, have you?

Sometimes I feel like shouting at them, "You are not writing in Latin! WORD ORDER MATTERS!" But I suspect they wouldn't get the joke...


Really, in a properly regulated society, people like Your Author would be clapped in the stocks.


Last year, I edited course materials for organizations investigating accusations of sexual abuse and violence by employees. The introductions in each of the several packets for the course were identical and included the phrase, "...and to further coordinate gender-based violence activities of [our] membership."

I read it three times to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. Thankfully, they agreed to reword it.

Apps 55753818692 1673506752 E7d0f159c4adc94fb72d8b2b51ed79c0

This letter reads so smooth that one could read it for content and not necessarily pick up on the grammatical errors. Great job in writing a letter from the author that every copyeditor has had!

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