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Verbal Phrase Danglers

Chapter:
Grammar
Author(s):

Stacy Christiansen

Verbal Phrase Danglers

A participle is a verb form used as an adjective. A dangling participle implies an actor but fails to indicate correctly who or what that actor is. The following examples of dangling participles illustrate the problem.

Avoid:

Working quickly, the study was completed early by my research team. [The participle appears to refer to “the study”; however, it is the research team that was working quickly.]

Better:

My research team worked quickly and completed the study early.

or

The study was completed early because my research team worked quickly.

Avoid:

Based on our experience, educational interventions are needed to foster higher-quality end-of-life care. [Are the educational interventions based on the authors' experience? No—it is the statement about the need for higher-quality end-of-life care that is based on the authors' experience.]

Better:

We have found that educational interventions are needed to foster higher-quality end-of-life care.

or

Experience has shown that educational interventions are needed to foster higher-quality end-of-life care.

A gerund is a verb form used as a noun (see 7.1.2, Nouns, Modifying Gerunds). Like the dangling participle, the dangling gerund implies an actor but does not specify who or what that actor is and sometimes may be confused with a participle modifying the wrong entity.

Avoid:

Dietary therapy slows the return of hypertension after stopping long-term medical therapy. [This states that dietary therapy not only slows the return of hypertension but also stops medical therapy.]

Better:

Dietary therapy slows the return of hypertension after cessation of long-term medical therapy.

or

After patients discontinue long-term medical therapy, dietary therapy slows the return of hypertension.

Avoid:

Before initiating an exercise program or engaging in heavy physical labor after a myocardial infarction, a physician should review the exercise program carefully. [“A physician” is erroneously implied to be the actor, the one initiating an exercise program or engaging in heavy physical labor.]

Better:

Anyone about to initiate an exercise program or engage in heavy physical labor after a myocardial infarction should consult his or her physician.

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