Dangling participles

Participles are often used to introduce subordinate clauses, which give extra information about the main part of a sentence (known as the main clause). It’s important to use participles in subordinate clauses correctly. The participle should always describe an action performed by the subject of the main clause. For example:

Mrs. Stevens, opening the door quietly, came into the room.
[subject] [participle]  
 
In this sentence, the present participle (i.e., opening) in the subordinate clause refers to the subject of the main clause. Mrs. Stevens is both opening the door and coming into the room.
 
Sometimes writers forget this rule and begin a sentence with a participle that does not refer to the subject of a sentence. They then end up with what’s known as a dangling participle, as in this grammatically incorrect and confusing sentence:
Traveling to Anchorage, the weather got colder and colder.
[participle] [subject]
The intended meaning of this sentence is 'as [the writer] was traveling to Anchorage, the weather got colder and colder.' Unfortunately, the literal meaning is that it's the weather that is traveling to Anchorage, because 'the weather' is the subject of the sentence and there's nothing else to which the participle can be attached. The sentence needs to be reworded to make the meaning clear and to make it grammatically correct. For example:
 
As I was traveling to Anchorage, the weather got colder and colder.
or:
 
Traveling to Anchorage, I found that the weather got colder and colder.

 

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