In May 2015, I started the BE THE EDITOR series, which has been incredible amounts of fun for me and for people who love grammar and puzzles. I’ve been running it through my Facebook page and giving people a day or two to answer. Sometimes I provide hints and draw out the process a bit.
The first one, as seen here, asked,
“Any ideas about what could improve this sentence or what's wonky about it?”
This sentence is an example of dangling modifier or, more specifically, a dangling participle because it starts with a verb. In grammar, the word “modifier” means a word or phrase that “describes a noun or pronoun.” The idea is that a modifier is situated near the word is describes or modifies. Grammar Bytes has a video that shows the modifier as an arrow and the noun or pronoun as the target.
In this case, the modifier is “Running through the rain.” As an arrow, it’s going to hit the nearest target—a noun or pronoun—and describe what the target is doing. That target is the noun “umbrella.”
But wait a minute! How can an umbrella run through the rain? As one respondent wrote, “The umbrella is not the subject of the verb running.”
Here are two editing options:
If you don’t want a transposed sentence, you could write the sentence as follows:
● The umbrella turned inside out as he ran through the rain.
● The umbrella turned inside out while my parents ran through the rain.
Notice that the person who “ran” doesn’t have to be the pronoun “I.” It can be any pronoun that acts as a subject, or “do-er” of a verb: I, you, he, she, we, they. Or you can replace the pronoun with a noun, such as in the last example: my parents.
So much fun! More to come!
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.