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Pardon Me, But Your Participle Is Dangling

By Helen Richards

     According to the sixth edition of Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, "the participle can open the sentence only when its subject is also the subject of the sentence and is located in regular subject position. Otherwise, the participle dangles." Present participles are phrases that begin with the -ing form of the verb such as having finished work early, leaving the job for someone else, or taking the time to proofread. The participle acts as a verb and needs a subject to attach itself to. The problem is that if the participle is not attached to its subject, the sentence takes on another meaning. Take the sentence below for example:
Being the first employee to complete the project on time, my boss gave me an award. The participle being the first employee to complete the project on time is attached to my boss, indicating that my boss was the first employee to complete the project on time.

      
The participle is dangling in this sentence because it is not attached to its proper subject. The sentence can be reworded to eliminate the dangling particle:

Being the first employee to complete the project on time, I was given an award by my boss.

     
Other sentences containing dangling participles are as follows:

Working sixty hours per week for three months, Lisa's report was flawless.
(The sentence suggests that Lisa's report instead of Lisa worked sixty hours per week for three months)
Failing to alphabetize correctly, the files were lost by the secretary.
(According to this sentence, the files instead of the secretary failed to alphabetize correctly)

     
Also, watch for the delayed subject, a problem that occurs when a participle is attached to there or it. An example of the delayed subject appears in this sentence:
Fearing a massive lay-off, there was a general sense of relief when the boss announced there would be no new budget cuts.

     
There
cannot be the subject that fearing a massive lay-off attaches to. A better sentence would be as follows:
Fearing a massive lay-off, the employees were relieved when the boss announced there would be no new budget cuts.

     
Another way to correct the problem of the delayed subject is to make the participle into a complete clause to change the sentence as follows:
Because the employees had feared a massive lay-off, there was a general sense of relief when the boss announced there would be no new budget cuts.

     
So remember that your participles are verbs and therefore need a subject to attach to; just make sure that your participle is attached to a subject. Otherwise, the participle is dangling!

 

Me, Myself, and I

By Mamie Webb Hixon

     When you don't know whether to use I or me, don't use the reflexive pronoun myself. Myself is not a substitute pronoun for either I or me. Myself is a reflexive pronoun used as the object in a sentence when the word to which the pronoun refers is the subject of the sentence. The use of myself in these three sentences is correct.

As president of this company, I am giving myself a raise.
I am very proud of myself for having worked hard to receive this award.
On behalf of the orchestra and myself (OR me), I welcome you.

The use of myself in the sentences below is incorrect:

The responsibilities will be divided between you and myself.
There is a big difference between my opponent and myself.
If you have any questions, contact the office assistant or myself.
The confidentiality agreement is between the company and myself.

Follow these basic pronoun usage rules when deciding whether to use I and me:

Rule 1: Ignore the conjunction and the other noun or pronoun:

If you have any questions, contact the office assistant or myself.

IGNORE or the office assistant
WOULD YOU SAY If you have any questions, contact myself?
OR WOULD YOU SAY If you have any questions, contact me?

If you have any questions, contact me or the office assistant.

Rule 2: Always use me, him, her, us, and them after between.

The responsibilities will be divided between you and me.
There is a big difference between my opponent and me.
The confidentiality agreement is between the company and me.

     Although the pronouns I, me, and myself refer to the same person—the person speaking or writing—these pronouns are not interchangeable in a sentence.

     Other reflexive pronouns are herself, himself, yourself, themselves, ourselves, andyourselves. Theyself, theirself, theirselves, and hisself are nonstandard.

 

Grammatical Etiquette

If you are using a first-person pronoun (I, me, we, us ) with a noun or another pronoun, mention yourself last:

Contact the department chair or me. NOT Contact me or the department chair.

The office manager and I are in a meeting. NOT I and the office manager are in a meeting.

 

Subjunctive Verbs: Verbs with an Attitude!

By Betty Burleson, UWF Writing Lab Manager

Just as human expression and actions suggest the mood (attitude) of the person, the form of the verb indicates the mood (attitude) of the verb. That is, the verb form indicates the speaker's or writer's attitude towards the idea expressed by the verb. Instead of telling what is or what something is doing (the indicative mood—DocuCom provides excellent printing services), the subjunctive mood speaks of possibilities, desires, and requirements.

1. The subjunctive mood is used to indicate a possibility: If I were you, I would save my money. Since I am not "you," we have a hypothetical condition. A word of caution is appropriate here: the trick is that the "if" statement must be contrary to fact: If I was efficient, my supervisor always allowed me to leave early (I was efficient; I did leave early).
2. The subjunctive is also used to express a wishful attitude: I wish I were the president of our company.
3. Finally, the subjunctive mood can express an insistent attitude in that -clauses:
The company requires that all employees be on time.
It is important that the applicant submit the application by the deadline
.
I move that the meeting be adjourned
.
The attorney insisted that the witness be excused
.

Remember, subjunctive verbs are verbs with an attitude! Watch out for these verbs in hypothetical conditions with imagined consequences and in that -clauses expressing requirements or recommendations.

 

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