Writing Guide: How to Fix Dangling Participles

To recap, dangling participles are participles (that is, “-ing” words that act like adjectives) that modify the wrong preceding noun. At their best, dangling participles needlessly obscure the subject of sentences; at their worst, they give a wrong idea of the action. It’s not just students who use dangling participles — but often major news media as well. This your guide to avoiding them entirely.

Take this sentence: “He went to the party, thinking it would be fun.” While the sentence makes sense to contemporary ears, it technically means that the party is the one that’s thinking.

How do we fix?

One way to fix dangling participles is to move the participle clause before the noun

Good: “Thinking it would be fun, he went to the party.” (Eh)

Another is to switch the verbs: make the main verb the participle instead.

Eh: “He thought it would be fun, going to the party.”

Much better: “He thought it would be fun to go to the party.

As we can see, while dangling participles might make sense on occasion, fixing them often makes for tighter sentence structures.