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.