Three ways to fix a dangling participle

Reliance upon the passive voice is a major reason why participles so often dangle. This is because the true subject is usually hidden in passive voice. Therefore, one straightforward way to correct a dangling participle is to rewrite the phrase to include the true subject of the verb that was turned into a participle.

Dangling participle: Using our inoculation procedures, infected hamsters developed granulomata.

True subject included, but wordy: When we used our inoculation procedures, infected hamsters developed granulomata.

Alternatively, omit the verb of the participle entirely.

Verb of the participle omitted: Our inoculation procedures produced granulomata in infected hamsters.

Table 6.4. Examples of verb use with collective nouns and the pronoun "none"

Singular in context

A pair of animals was housed in each cage. All of the protocol was carefully followed. Statistics is a difficult subject. The number of people in the study is dwindling. None of the information was used.

Plural in context

A pair of animals were watching. All of the data were incorrect. The statistics are easily gathered. A number of people have dropped out.

None of the trials were finished OR Not one of the trials was finished.

A third way to correct dangling participles is to switch to gerund phrases. A gerund looks superficially like a participle, because it also ends in -ing. However, a participle functions as an adjective, and a gerund functions as a noun.

A gerund often can be used as the subject of a sentence. When you say, "Writing is easy," the gerund is writing. (Sometimes gerunds also appear in the predicate part of a sentence, as in, "He explained the Kreb's cycle by drawing a diagram.")

Dangling participle: Flushing the flask, the impurities were removed.

Participle changed to gerund: Flushing the flask removed impurities.


Hungry Joe collected lists of fatal diseases and arranged them in alphabetical order so that he could put his finger without delay on any one he wanted to worry about.

- Joseph Heller

Whether compiling disease lists or parenting twins - more than one of anything takes extra care. In scientific writing, collective nouns, comparisons, and lists require special attention.

Collective nouns and noun phrases

Most nouns are clearly either singular or plural in both sense and form. However, whether collective nouns are singular or plural depends on context and your emphasis as the writer. You must decide whether the action of the verb is on the group as a whole (and treat the noun as singular) or the action is on group members as individuals (and treat the noun as plural).

The pronoun none can also be singular or plural. When the noun that follows is singular, use a singular verb; when the noun is plural, use a plural verb. If you mean not one, use that phrase with a singular verb instead of none. Some examples appear in Table 6.4; consult a good dictionary if in doubt about the form of others.

Collective terms denoting quantity are particularly tricky to handle. When regarded as a unit, these nouns take singular verbs, but when considered individually they take plural verbs. We say "ten liters is a good yield" but "ten liters were poured into carboys." The problem is that, even with careful attention and the help of a good stylebook, such sentences often sound illogical or clumsy. Many writers simply prefer to redo such sentences. Write the sentence in the active voice and/or reorder it so the collective noun or quality is no longer the subject. Alternatively, use parentheses for the quantity.

Instead of: Five milliliters of serum was added to the mixture.

Write: We added 5 ml of serum to the mixture.

Instead of: Two-tenths of a milligram per liter of mebendazole and 0.9 mg/L of trichlorfon effectively control freshwater Gyrodactylus.

Write: A combination of mebendazole (0.2 mg/L) and trichlorfon (0.9 mg/L) effectively controls freshwater Gyrodactylus.

Phrases like a total of can be particularly troublesome. Total is singular, and should take a singular verb. Do not say "a total of 35 animals were examined." Even the correct phrasing, "a total of 35 animals was examined," will cause many readers to stumble. It just sounds wrong! Usually the phrase a total of should simply be omitted.

Remember that although the word data is sometimes used as a singular noun (particularly in nonscientific journalism), it is still correctly considered to be plural. (A datum is one of the single facts or pieces of information which collectively constitute the data.) Thus, in a scientific publication write, "Additional data are available."

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  • murray
    How to fix the dangling participle?
    9 years ago
    What are ways in correcting the dangling participle?
    9 years ago
  • freya
    How to correct a dangling participle?
    8 years ago

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