Tampa SAT Writing Tutor Hints: Dangling Participles
To do well on the writing section of the SAT, you need to understand dangling participles.
Dangling participle sounds like a painful medical condition, but it’s really an easily corrected writing error.
A participle is a word made from a verb and used as an adjective.
Because participles are made from verbs, they look like verbs and have verb endings (–ed,-en,-t,-ing). However, participles modify nouns and pronouns because they’re really adjectives.
If that explanation is clear as mud, maybe a few examples will help make it clearer.
I watched the laughing hyenas. (What kind of hyenas? Laughing is a participle that functions as an adjective.)
This image of hyenas at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL, created by Dr. Neil Turner and licensed under (CC BY-ND 2.0). See more of Dr. T's photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/neillturner/
The collapsed mineshaft was dangerous. (What kind of mineshaft? Collapsed is a participle that functions as an adjective describing bridge.)
The stolen motorcycle was recovered by detectives. (What kind of motorcycle? Stolen is a participle that functions as an adjective describing the motorcycle.)
He ate the burnt hash browns covered in ketchup. (What kind of hash browns? Burnt is a participle that describes the noun hash browns.)
Like adjectives, participles are usually found in front of the nouns they modify. Sometimes, though, a participle can be found after the noun it modifies.
The children smelled the cookies baking. (Which cookies? The cookies baking. In this sentence, baking is a participle that functions as an adjective modifying cookies.)
HOW TO FIX DANGLING PARTICIPLES
A participle dangles if it can’t logically modify the noun closest to it.
I saw the house peeking through the trees.
The participle phrase peaking through the trees attaches itself to the nearest noun, house. Because the house can’t possibly peek through the trees, the participle dangles.
This dangling participle can be corrected easily.
Peeking through the trees, I saw the house.
Let’s try another.
Rushing to catch the train, Bo’s wallet fell out of his shirt.
What does the participle Rushing to catch the train modify? Not Bo’s wallet, right? It modifies Bo.
Rushing to catch the train, Bo lost his wallet when it fell from his shirt pocket.
Now Bo, not his wallet, is rushing to catch the train.
Notice that when the sentence starts with a participle phrase, the participle phrase is followed by a comma. After the comma comes the noun or pronoun that does the action described in the participle phrase.
Dangling Participle SAT Writing Question
On the writing part of the SAT, you might see a sentence correction question like this one:
Racing to the airport, Jane’s desire was not to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
a) Racing for the airport, Jane’s desire was not to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
b) The airport being raced for, Jane was not desiring to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
c) Racing to the airport, so Jane would not miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
d) Racing to the airport, Jane had no intention of missing her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
e) Being that she raced to the airport, Jane’s desire did not intend to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
The original sentence has a dangling participle because Jane’s desire can’t race to the airport. Only Jane can race to the airport. So the only possible correct answers to this question will have Jane immediately after the comma that follows the participle Racing to the airport.
Only choices b and d correct the dangler, and d is the better of the two.
I help students improve their scores on the reading and writing portions of the SAT. If you or a student in your family needs help, please call me. I’m Tampa SAT tutor Eric Anderson and can be reached at 813.787.8959.
This post was written by freelance blogger Darnell McCray. If you need help creating posts for your blog, you can reach Darnell by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.