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If you write professionally – especially if you are in the media – it’s easy to avoid “danglers”
The BBC trains its people to avoid danglers and here are examples of danglers from the BBC style book.
I recently saw an Australian TV news report about customs in Hong Kong seizing super-bikes that were allegedly being smuggled in as scrap metal.
The story included a line (and I’m paraphrasing):
If found guilty, the superbikes will be confiscated.
The problem is very similar to the BBC example:
If found guilty, the Football Association could fine the Arsenal Players.
The problem is:
It’s not the Football Association that could be found guilty – but the Arsenal Players.
It’s not the superbikes that could be found guilty – but the alleged “smugglers”.
A dangler (the dangling modifier words that dangle at the start of the sentence such as “if found guilty”) modifies the first noun or pronoun that follows the dangler.
It’s easy to fix:
Get into the habit of attaching the “real subject that should be modified” to the dangler.
For example, and the description can vary: If the alleged smugglers/ business importing the goods are/is found guilty, the bikes could be confiscated.
If the Arsenal players are found guilty, the Football Association could fine them.
I know from my years in broadcast news that every word and every second is precious.
Still, it’s good to get into the habit of being aware of danglers and going to the effort of avoiding them.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to know what you think.
Should we still care about avoiding danglers – or do you think the audience will know what you mean anyway?
Please share in the comments section below.
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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.