Monday, April 16, 2012

A-Z Challenge N = Nasty Mess

Flitting from flower to flower, the footballer watched the bee. Um, the footballer was flitting from flower to flower? I don't think so.

Just a quickie explanation. Flitting is a verb participle in that phrase. If you stick a participle like that at the beginning of a sentence, then the noun after the comma must be the thing that's doing the verb. What was flitting? The bee was!!! So...The footballer watched the bee flitting from flower to flower...or, if you really must use the participle: Flitting from flower to flower, the bee was oblivious to the footballer. You'll probably do a better job at correcting it than I can.

Grouchy grammarians have named this mistake a dangling participle just to prove they do have a sense of humor after all.

Here are some real messy ones:

  • Lying on the beach, the ocean was beautiful
  • When making a withdrawal, this pass-book is required (clever little passbook able to make its own withdrawal).
  • Having eaten my dinner, the waiter gave me the check.
We all laugh at these howlers and say, "Get your dangling participle out of my face!" But I bet we're all guilty of them. They creep into our manuscripts without us knowing and...dangle there.

I checked my manuscript so many times before I submitted it that I thought it was error-free. But I've just had it edited by the publisher. I don't think I had any danglers but I discovered I didn't know the difference between further and farther (who'd a thought?).  Fortunately editor Cherie Reichs was on hand to explain. If you're interested, go here for the website she recommended that has the explanation. 
Back to my manuscript, my commas were a nasty mess and *facepalm* I had eyes travelling all over the place. I did! As in, "his eyes travelled from her feet to her head".

See you tomorrow.


  1. Oh wow, I am SO guilty of this!

  2. Breaking into the safe, the money paid our gas bill.

    Maybe we can put together a blogfest of Intentional Dangling Participles. Hilarious. *must think about this idea*

    Excellent post and love, love, love your comment on my blog. You deserve an award. No strings attached, just pick it up and post my very own Blog On Fire award in your sidebar.

  3. I always try to prevent my participles from dangling but the little critters are so ornery!

  4. Fab post, Susan. I am sure I am guilty of this one because for me, it's easy to miss for some reason.

  5. Laughing at the post, the manuscript often had such grammatical mistakes in it. Probably still does. :))

  6. Hope you’re enjoying the challenge so far!
    --Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  7. Oh I am very guilty *blush*

    Post made me smile.

  8. When making this post, I know you must have enjoyed it. ;) I'm horrible. I use dangling participles all the time.

  9. Kyra, I know! We all are. Thanks for my blog award, Huntress! Oh yes, Cat, ornery little critters. We do miss them, Karen (our eyes travel over them LOL), thanks for popping in LG, Damyanti and Glynis! Oh Clarissa...that hurt!

  10. Susan, I always loved the phrase dangling participles. The visual, alone, has always been a great source of amusement to me--just ask a couple of my English teachers.

    I used to love to start my action sentences with verbs (don't anymore and they never dangled, lol!)) or occasionally, adverbs. Action just seemed easier to show or describe that way. I hear you on traveling eyes. In romance,eyes are important so we're quick to have them do all sorts of impossible things that make editors grind their teeth.

    Congrats on the award!


  11. Eyes....those rotten eyes. This was one of the first things I was taught when I did my creative writing certificate. It's amazing the stunts eyes have done in many a novel I've read.

  12. i will be watching for this

  13. Oh, I'm sure I'm guilty!

  14. Anonymous9:30 pm

    we all are guilty
    I cannot edit my stuff.
    a fellow writer edits his MS backwards ( haven't tried it - yet)
    nice to meet another A to Zer

  15. I love spotting dangling participles when I'm reading but think (hope!) I manage to avoid them now in my own writing.
    But travelling eyes? Guilty as charged! On one of my final edits, I do a 'find' for the word eyes and, if they're doing impossible things, usually change them to 'gaze' or 'glance' or even 'glare'.

  16. It's easy to see in someone else's writing and so difficult to see in your own!

  17. I'm guilty! But I've gotten better at catching them. Cherie has been a big help. :)

  18. LOL at those dangling participles, especially the last one about the waiter eating your dinner. But I probably have committed a few in my time.

    And there's a difference between further and farther? Off to read up!

    Thanks for the informative post!

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger


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