Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dodge That Dangler


What's wrong with this sentence?

Enticed by reports of the richness of the land, the first three ships...

In a word: dangler.

That's short for dangling modifier, or grammar speak for mismatched subject and verb. In this case, the opening phrase says that the subject, "the first three ships," were "enticed by reports of richness." Of course we know the people onboard were enticed, not the ships themselves. The "dangling" part is the missing intended subject: sailors.

Here's a fix: Sailors on the first three ships were enticed by reports of the richness of the land.

A colleague said the dangler was fine and didn't need fixing, since it was obvious we meant the people in the ships, not the ships themselves.

"Nice try," I replied.

It's not polite to dangle in public.



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