QUERY: Dangler?

Subject: QUERY: Dangler?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 09:13:55 -0500

Susanna Sturgis wondered about: <<"[Character's name] said that she felt
secure and offered loans to her children. Knowing what a cheapskate she was,
this provided scarce comfort to anyone . . .">>

It's clear that "knowing" is a participle, and that the referrent isn't
"this", and in my books, that makes it a dangling participle. (I've had this
argument with other editors before, and they've demonstrated conclusively to
me that I don't understand deep sentence structure on any kind of formal
grammatical level, and thus, I may be misusing a term when I call this a
dangler; in any event, whatever you wish to call this, the participle links
misleadingly to the "this", and that's not good writing.) Were I to rewrite
minimally to fix the dangler, I'd propose that the author try something
along the lines of: "Knowing what a cheapskate she was, no one took more
than scarce ["scant" is the better word; scarce is misused here] comfort in
these loans." Given that you're at the proof stage, you might want to look
the other way, because the meaning can eventually be figured out, but it's
by no means fine writing and it doesn't reflect well on either the author or
the copyeditor.

<<can the phrase be treated like, say, "Given what a cheapskate she was"?>>

No, but for a different reason. "Given" is one of those terms that the
metadiscourse folk believe cue the reader to think as follows: "_Given_
means that the author is about to draw a conclusion based on the previous
sentence or set of facts; thus, the introductory clause I'm currently
reading serves to remind me of the context (she's only claiming to not be a
cheapskate), and the following clause will tell me the consequences (nobody
really believes her)".

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe


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