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News writing tip – avoid “danglers”

It sounds rude – but a dangler is a real name for a potential writing problem.

It’s also called a dangling modifier – where modifying words “dangle” at the start of a sentence. But dangler sounds more interesting!

retro radio

Technically, the dangler modifies the first noun or pronoun that follows.

Here’s an example I heard on ABC’s AM this morning.

Gippsland Secured Investments has six offices across Gippsland, with its head office in Bairnsdale.

(Now here’s the dangler)

Established in 1970, its three founding directors were all prominent Gippsland lawyers.

Can you see? – technically the three founding directors were established in 1970.

word nerd CU

I admit – I’m a real news writing word nerd. I care about these things. I acknowledge and accept that many people do not.

Now, I know reporters write under intense deadline pressure – and mistakes occasionally slip through.


I made plenty of mistakes in my reporting days – and I was always grateful when experienced writers pointed out my mistakes and showed me how to avoid mistakes in the future.

I still make mistakes in my rush to harness the timeliness of events.

I write these tips not to criticise – but to help as I was helped.

Commercial networks  TV news bulletins often contain danglers. I imagine that not many people in the the audience notice  – or care.

I do think more people would care about danglers in ABC reports.

Here are two commercial TV danglers.

Since they were 3 months old the zookeepers have taken care of the tiger cubs.


Despite being a protects species, poachers have been stealing and selling the seahorses to overseas buyers.

Technically, it sounds as if the zookeepers were 3 months old – not the tiger cubs.

It sounds as if the poachers are a protected species.

retro TV


Who cares? – people know what you mean.

True – maybe I’m just being anal and pedantic – but that’s the way I was trained by my old news bosses and journalism teachers here in Australia and in the US at the J-school at the University of Missouri-Columbia.


So if you DO CARE – here’s how you can  avoid danglers.

Established in 1970, its three founding directors were all prominent Gippsland lawyers.

Say what was established in 1970. Put it first in the sentence before the dangler.

The bank (or whatever it technically is) was established in 1970 and its three founding directors were all…

I argue that your should be careful of danglers especially in legal matters – so you are not saying damaging things about the wrong people

Can you see what is wrong with this real-life example example I heard on a commercial network? The example was from

many years back – but It was so bad I wrote it in my word nerd notebook!

Accused of molesting a child,  Jackson’s lawyer launched an appeal.

Oh dear!

Anyway, I hope you found this helpful.

I better go. It’s time for the news on TV. I wonder if there will be more examples of danglers!


If you found this post interesting – you can follow and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.


tony biancotti


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

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2 comments on “News writing tip – avoid “danglers”

  1. Pingback: Writing tip for journalists and #Journalism students – from a #caremudgeon | efangelist

  2. Pingback: Is your Dangler showing? | efangelist

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