94: The Demise of a Publisher – and the Rise of a Phoenix

Grammar and punctuation book cover 2.jpg

It was ten months ago that I proudly announced the impending publication of my linguistic opus, Grammar and Punctuation for Key Stages 3 & 4 with Handy Usage Notes, by First and Best in Education. Well, maybe not quite an opus: I had, in fact, lopped nearly a third off an earlier incarnation of the textbook, which was targeted mainly at the British Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). But, while the book had been shortened and, I hope, improved, its scope had been widened to include also older students. So all that was left for me to do was to sit back and wait for the royalties to start rolling in. Alas, a few months later I found myself a bewildered recipient of a notification of the demise of my book’s publishing house. How come: they had been going for years! Sadly, it appeared as if they were now going straight into administration.

But what is it they say about doors closing: when one door closes, another slams in your face? No, perhaps not that one, for I definitely wasn’t going to let this setback deflate me. After all, I am now a fully-fledged publisher myself. So my phoenix-like textbook is again in the public domain, as a shiny A4 paperback, elegantly bound, as well as an e-book, both available worldwide. And the best thing is that, with no middlemen to take their cut, I was able to slash the book’s price considerably. The book can be accessed via the links below, via the books page on my website or by Googling its title and author (i.e. me).

Paperback

http://www.lulu.com/shop/anna-nolan/grammar-and-punctuation-for-key-stages-3-4/paperback/product-22988266.html

 E-book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N1QVWHD

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N1QVWHD

 For those interested, here’s a brief description of my textbook. The book gives an introduction to the grammar and punctuation of present-day Standard English in the context of their relevance to communication. Its up-to-date grammatical and punctuation content, rooted in British national literacy strategies, is particularly relevant to Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11-16), but the book can be used also for, and by, older students. Its unique selling points include concise notes addressing a range of relevant usage points, a spotlight on the areas which writers tend to find troublesome and authentic examples helping to bring the content to life. While focusing on British English, the book does point out some differences with American English – particularly in the area of grammar. Its main aims are to improve students’ communication skills (particularly written), to constitute an accessible reference source and to serve as an editing handbook.

I hope the book will serve its users well.

 

 

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69 – Frolic: Babies and participles

“Blimey, your health service …”

“Yes?”

“It’s incredible.”

“Do you think so?”

“Well, maybe not all of it, but your midwifery – the mind boggles.”

“It does?”

“Absolutely. I mean delivering babies isn’t usually a walk in the park – not in Poland anyway.”

“I’d say not anywhere.”

“A-a-a-a, but that’s just it.”

“That’s just what?”

“It is, apparently.”

“It is what?”

“A walk in the park.”

“Look, you are not making any sense here – what is a walk in the park?”

“How you deliver babies. In Britain.”

“Get away!”

“No, no, it is. Or, at least, it can be.”

“Says who?”

“The Times Educational Supplement. I’ve found this article – in your archives. Listen to this.”

 “When delivered in a fresh, artistic way, children will seize on writing as they do art and drawing.”

 “Oh this, ha, ha, ha!”

“What’s so funny? I mean what a feat: they manage to deliver kids in a fresh way. And artistic! I defy you to beat that.”

“No, no, they don’t deliver children!”

“What do you mean they don’t deliver children? Are you saying that The Times Educational Supplement would have wilfully misinformed its readers?”

“No, no, of course not; it’s just that they didn’t know their grammar.”

“Are you saying you need to know grammar to deliver babies?”

“No, yes, I mean everybody needs grammar to communicate – grammar is the mortar that holds the bricks of vocabulary together – but this has nothing to do with babies; it’s a dangler.”

“A dangling baby?”

“NOT A BABY THERE IS NO BABY – IT’S A DANGLING PARTICIPLE!!!”

“A dangling what?”

“Participle. ‘Delivered’ is a dangling participle here.”

“Why is it dangling?”

“Because they made it refer to the wrong noun.”

“They did?”

“Absolutely. They obviously thought that you could relate an initial participle such as ‘delivered’ to the object – which, in this sentence, is writing – but you can’t.”

“You can’t?”

“Nope. Initial participles will always be interpreted as referring to the subject of the main clause – ALWAYS. And the subject here is children.”

“Sure, it’s an important subject.”

“No, no, I don’t mean a subject of discussion – I mean grammar. It’s a very common error.”

“It is?”

“Yep. But it’s very easy to put right. Whenever an initial participle is meant to refer to the object instead of the subject, you just change the voice of the main clause from active to passive – that’s all.”

“Is that really all?”

“Yep. Because, when you change the voice, the object becomes the subject.”

“And what happens to the subject?”

“It becomes the agent.”

“Secret?”

“Get away! Look, what they were trying to say was this.”

  “When delivered in a fresh, artistic way, writing will be seized on by children as eagerly as art and drawing.”

 “Blimey.”

Frolic: Another dangling participle

“Poor, poor man!”

“Who?”

“This Rupert.”

“Which Rupert?”

“Rupert Christiansen. From The Daily Telegraph. I thought that Rupert was supposed to be a posh name.”

“It is, but there are worse things you could do to a kid. Fair dos, he might prefer to be called something down-to-earth like Peter or John, but you can’t expect all parents to be that sensible. So I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him.”

“No, no, it’s not that!”

“So what is it then?”

“His background; poor mite.”

“Hmm, I see what you mean: some of those toffs can be right weirdos; at least that’s what I’ve read.”

“A-a-a-a, but that’s just it!”

“That’s just what?”

“They weren’t toffs at all.”

“They weren’t?”

“Nope.”

“So what were they?”

“Pagans, apparently.”

“Well, some toffs may well hold different beliefs, so I wouldn’t …”

“No, no, no, if they were toffs, why did they then palm him off on some peasants?”

“Peasants?  Listen, you are not making any sense.”

“It’s not me – look at what they wrote. Right at the very top of this article.”

 “Begun by pagans, kept alive by peasants – Rupert Christiansen traces the surprising origins of our favourite seasonal songs.”

 “Ha, ha, ha, it’s another … ha, ha, ha … it’s another dangler.”

“Another dangler?”

“Yep; you know, a dangling participle. Two, actually: begun and kept. I’ve told you about dangling participles, haven’t I?”

“You have, you have.”

“They are an absolute classic.”

“But it’s The Daily Telegraph …”

“Makes no difference. Look, what they were trying to say was this.

 Rupert Christiansen traces the surprising origins of our favourite seasonal songs, begun by pagans, kept alive by peasants.

 “I s-e-e-e. But didn’t you tell me that people often started their sentences with participles to sound sophisticated?”

“They do, they do, but a dangler will never sound sophisticated – trust me.”

“Are you saying that it’s not possible to plonk these participles at the beginning here?”

“Nope, I’m not saying that at all. But you have to rearrange this sentence to make sure that both participles refer to the subject of their governing clause.”

“Like … you mean … I’m not sure …. so how would you …”

“That’s how; look.”

 Begun by pagans, kept alive by peasants, our favourite seasonal songs have surprising origins, traced here by Rupert Christiansen.

 “A-a-a-a-a!”

Daily Frolic 22: Lusting milkmen and dangling participles

“There must be something in your water.”

“In my water?”

“No, no, I mean in this country.”

“Like what?”

“No idea – but it must be dodgy.”

“Dodgy?”

“Aha; we would never allow anything like this to happen in Poland.”

“Like what?”

“To upset people’s hormonal balance like this – never. I mean, you don’t want to mess with hormones, do you?”

“What are you on about?”

“Well, I’ve been reading this Sunday Telegraph …”

“And?”

“They had this interview with a singer – they said he was very famous in Britain …”

“Yes?”

“And he said that, after he’d left school with no qualifications, he became a milkman.”

“Well, when you have no qualifications your options are a tad limited. But I guess becoming a milkman is a viable career option in such circumstances.”

“Or a footballer?”

“Or a footballer. But what’s your point?”

“Well, he said he’d come across all these funny women – when he was delivering their milk.”

“Look, you are not making any sense. What exactly did he say?”

“This.”

“My outstanding memory was that despite bursting with testosterone, bored housewives never lured me into their home.”

 “Oh this, ha, ha, ha!”

“But it’s not funny. These poor women; I wonder whether they were hairy. I mean, testosterone can …”

“No, no, no, it’s a dangler.”

A dangler?”

“Yep: a dangling participle; bursting is a participle.”

“But why is it dangling?”

“Because it’s misrelated. It’s a very common error: many people don’t seem to realise that a participle such as this will always refer to the subject of the clause which governs it – in this case, housewives. In other words, such participles are always forward-looking.”

“Hmm … I mean … do you mean … how do you mean?”

“Look, what he was attempting to say was this.”

 My abiding memory was that, despite bursting with testosterone, I was never lured by bored housewives into their home.

 “So it’s not your water?”

“Nope; neither is his memory outstanding – it’s abiding.”

“A-a-a-a, but if these women had really been crazed by testosterone, it may well have been!”

Dangling participles – guest blog post

I’m delighted to have been asked by Lizzie Ferrar to write a guest post for her blog. Lizzie is the founder and Director of Proofreading London, which is a professional proofreading, editing and copywriting service. The service’s website incorporates an informative and engaging blog, and it’s there that my short post is being hosted. I’ve decided to write about one of my bugbears, dangling participles, because they are very common and many are hilarious – albeit unintentionally so. I do hope you will enjoy my post; here is the link: http://www.proofreadinglondon.com/blog/dangling-participles

Post 12: Flat phones and drugged nurses

Area: grammar
Topic: participles erroneously made to refer to the object rather than the subject (related to posts 3 and 4)

It was with genuine sadness that I waved Utari goodbye, although our parting hadn’t passed off without a drama.
“What am I going do, what am I going do?” wailed my pupil, throwing her hands up with what looked like a gesture of abject despair.
To do, Utari.”
“What should I to do?”
“You should do.”
“But what???”
“No, no, we say ‘should do’, Utari. But what’s the problem?”
“My plane, they will not let me to fly!”
“Fly, fly!”
“I want, I want, but I cannot!”
“Whyever not, Utari?” She was shortly supposed to fly back home with Garuda Indonesia, and we had made a point of checking that her ticket was all in order.
“Because my phone, it is flat.”
“What do you mean?”
“This –The Daily Telegraph, they wrote this; look.” With this, she passed me that morning’s copy of the paper, which I hadn’t yet had the chance to peruse. The headline she was pointing at, which was splashed right across the front page, announced this.

You won’t fly if your phone is flat.

“My phone, it is flat,” repeated the young lady disconsolately.
“Just a sec, just a sec; let’s have a look.” My quick scan of the article confirmed my hunch. “It’s only for people travelling to the United States, Utari, so you needn’t worry.”
“No?”
“Nope.”
“So what are they going do? Phones, they are flat, no?”
To do, to do, Utari, but they didn’t mean it like this: when a phone is flat, it means it is uncharged. It’s to do with preventing terrorism: you must have your phone, or any other electrical gadget, charged to prove that it is a working device and that its batteries are not, in fact, hidden explosives.”
Her flat phone notwithstanding, Utari did indeed manage to make a successful getaway, and, after a few days’ break, I took receipt of another young executive who could not be accommodated by the enterprising Waverley. Juan, from Barcelona, was full of carambas, dios mios, exactamentes and vayas and took to my way of exposing my pupils to the marvels of English like a duck to water. What has particularly endeared him to me was his enthusiastically expressed love of reading, which he, apparently, indulged also during meals, I, too, exhibiting this proclivity – to the slight annoyance of my lawfully wedded. On our very first morning, over a baguette soaked in milk and sprinkled with cinnamon, which I fervently hoped would pass for torrijas, Juan was keenly leafing through a recent copy of The Sunday Telegraph when, suddenly, he went “caramba!”
“What’s the matter, Juan? Would you like sugar instead of cinnamon?”
“No del todo, no del todo: mucha testosterona is good for guy but bad for lady. You have muchas butch ladies in Inglaterra?”
Butch ladies? Like … like weight-lifters?”
“No, no, housewives!”
Housewives? I don’t think they are particularly butch, Juan.”
Juan looked somewhat nonplussed. “But they wrote … why they wrote this?”
“Why did they write this?”
“Exactamente, exactamente!”
“No, no, if it’s a question in the past tense, we use did. But what exactly did they write?” Juan pointed at the offending sentence, which went like this.

My outstanding memory was that despite bursting with testosterone, bored housewives never lured me into their home.

“Oh this – it’s a classic, Juan, an absolute classic. They have simply misrelated the participle ‘bursting’.”
“Por que?”
“Well, they didn’t do this on purpose. It’s just that participles are less explicit than complete verb forms, and some people don’t realise that those like this one will always refer to the subject of the clause which governs them.”
“Caramba!”
“You see, the subject governing this ‘bursting’ is ‘housewives’, but this writer tries to force the participle to refer to the object ‘me’.
“Dios mio!”
“This can be easily remedied, though: you just change the voice from active to passive and Bob’s … and … eso es!” Now, I hadn’t spent half of the previous night perusing a Spanish phrase-book for nothing, had I? “So they should have said something like this – and with ‘abiding’ rather than ‘outstanding’ memory.”

My abiding memory was that, despite bursting with testosterone, I was never lured by bored housewives into their home.

“Vaya!”
“I have plenty of similar examples, Juan. Listen to this; I found it in The Sunday Times.”

Morphined up to the hilt, the nurses later told me I went in [into the operating theatre] singing Bowie’s Rock’n’Roll Suicide.

“Caramba!”
“Indeed, indeed, Juan. Imagine being attended to by nurses off their head on drugs. Our good old National Health Service is in enough trouble as it is. What they meant was, of course, this.”

Morphined up to the hilt, I was later told by the nurses that I had gone in singing Bowie’s Rock’n’Roll Suicide.

“Vaya!”
“And this one is from the Daily Mail.”

Slowly cooked in the oven with a sprinkling of herbs, you might expect Mediterranean-style roasted vegetables would be one of the healthier dishes available.

“We eat in Barcelona muchas roasted vegetables.”
“I’m sure you do, Juan, but this writer is trying to cook you in the oven!”
“Dios mio!”
“Yep, but changing the voice usually does the trick; I’ve told you. What they were trying to say is this.”

Slowly cooked in the oven with a sprinkling of herbs, Mediterranean-style roasted vegetables might be expected to be one of the healthier dishes available.

“Vaya!”
“I have one more here for you, Juan – from The Times. It’s about Lord Snowdon, who was a famous photographer.”

After failing his architecture exams at Cambridge, Snowdon’s mother cabled him saying “on no account consider changing to photography”.

“Architecture, I studied also architecture.”
“Yes, but your mother did not fail your exams, did she?”
“No del todo, no del todo!”
“There you go. But if you change the voice to passive, you immediately detach the participle from the object and relate it to the subject – where it belongs.”

After failing his architecture exams at Cambridge, Snowdon was cabled by his mother saying “on no account consider changing to photography”.

Actually, I’ve written a little ditty about changing the voice whenever the participle is erroneously made to refer to the subject.”

It’s happened again? You’ve simply no choice
And must rescue sense by changing the voice;
If your participle has made a wrong match,
Split it from the object, be ruthless – detach!

“Excelente!”
“Gracias … I mean thank you, Juan.”

Miscellaneous: my irreverently satirical book An Alien in a Madhouse

Just to let you know that my irreverent political – and grammatical – satire, An Alien in a Madhouse, is now available in both electronic and paperback format (at £1.96 and £6.99 respectively).This jocular book satirises the bureaucracy rampaging across quango-land, the vagaries of office life, the comicality of jargon beloved of officialdom, political correctness gone mad and the mind-boggling assortment of language blunders perpetrated by fully paid-up members of the educational establishment. The book, which also attempts to defuse some of the usage booby-traps strewn across English, is interspersed with humorous ditties which make light-hearted political and grammatical points and which underline the irreverence of the narrative voice. Below are given both links and the initial section of the first chapter.

E-book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00LSZIQ5M?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Paperback: http://www.lulu.com/shop/anna-nolan/an-alien-in-a-madhouse/paperback/product-21712758.html

An Alien in a Madhouse

“Fart.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Fart here.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like what?”
“Well, I am not sure I can manage to … manage it just like that.”
“Manage what?”
“What you’ve just told me to do … ”
“You what?”
“Well, you’ve just told me to … to … you know.”
“I haven’t told you to do nothing.”
“Well, you did say to … to break wind.”
“No, no – fart; that’s, like, what we are.”
“That’s what you are?”
“It is.”
“Terribly sorry, but I’m not with you.”
“That’s what we are, like: the Fore … Forest … umm … Foremost Authority for the Regulation of Transformation.”
“O-o-o-o, I see: FART.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying, like.”
“Yes, no … I mean, it’s obviously an acronym.”
“No, no, it’s an authority.”
“No, I meant … oh, never mind. And what do you do exactly?”
“We deliver and stuff.”
“You deliver? Like in a maternity ward?”
“How do you mean a maternity ward?”
“Well, that’s what a maternity ward does: delivers babies.”
“We don’t have no babies here.”
“So what do you deliver?”
“Oodles, like.”
“Oodles of what?”
After what sounded like a deep sigh at the end of the telephone line, there followed a slight pause, itself followed by some rustling accompanied by several more sighs. “Just a sec; where’s the blinking list? That’s it, we … we deliver directors … umm, sorry, directives, police … oops, no, policies, reports, guides … no, no, it says guidelines, circles, umm … circulars, surveys, degrees, no, no, decrees, handbooks, app … appen … appendices, annexes, schedules, memo … randa, pre … pre … oh shucks, precepts?”
“Yes, it would be precepts.”
“ … specifications, explanations, ex … exhortations and …. and im-plo-ra-tions, like.”
“You deliver them all?”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff. And we deliver statements. And certificates. And, like, customer focus.”
“And customer focus? Wow. So you are some sort of delivering organisation, is that right?”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“But what’s that about regulating? In your name?”
“’Cos we also regulate and stuff.”
“Wow, you must be busy. You deliver and regulate.”
“All the time. And on overtime.”
“And on overtime? Wow. So you regulate transformation?”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“What sort of transformation?”
“I don’t know, do I? They didn’t tell me nothing. I‘m on work experience here. I’m doing an Intermediate Certificate in Handling the General Public, like. Stage Two.”
“Stage Two?”
“Yes. Stage Two comes after Stage One.”
“Does it really?”
“It does, it does! I’ve, like, got Stage One already.”
“Congratulations. You handle the general public very well.”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“I’m sure you’ll sail through your Stage Two. You’ve made FA … your organisation sound very intriguing: I’d love to find out more about it. Do you think I could speak to your manager?”
“You could – if he wasn’t in a meeting.”
“Is he in a meeting?”
“He’s, like, always in a meeting.”
“Maybe I could phone him when he’s finished?”
“When he’s finished, he’ll go to another meeting.”
“He must be terribly busy.”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“What about his manager? Is he available?”
“She.”
“Is she available?”
“That would be a first.”
“Would it? Why?”
“Every time Callum is in a meeting, Fenella is in the same meeting, like.”
“I see. So how could I find out more about FA … about your organisation?”
“Go to our website, like.”
“Good idea. The address is … ?”
“Www.fart.com”
“Of course – could have guessed. You’ve been very helpful.”
“No worries. We pride us … ourself on delivering customer focus and stuff.”
“Evidently. Thank you.”
“Wait, wait, there is a survey.”
“A survey?”
“There’s customer satisfaction surveys on our website, like – will you do one about this call and stuff?”
“With pleasure. Good luck with your Stage Two.”

***
Actually, I had no intention at all of approaching the Foremost Authority. For a start, I had no idea of its existence. I was merely trying to report a non-collection of my rubbish. You know how it is: those refuse collectors tear round the neighbourhood like demons, tattoos flashing, nose rings dangling, attitude oozing, and, invariably, they miss some bins. This has been happening more often recently, actually. So you call the council, and they put you on hold and play you some soporific music, and, after fifteen minutes, they put you through to a nice lady, who says sorry, you’ve got the wrong department, whereupon she puts you on hold for another fifteen minutes (by which time the soporific tunes have rendered you somewhat torpid), after which you do get through to another nice lady, who is, mercifully, the right lady.
The right lady asks you whether you are sure that your rubbish hasn’t been collected, to which you, having now perked up, reply that yes, you are quite sure. She then asks whether you left your bins in front of your house, to which you reply that you did indeed leave your bins in front of your house. The right lady then enquires whether this was on the correct day, to which you reply that it was. The right lady then questions your general recollection of events, suggesting that you might be new to this address and not familiar with how things are done, to which you offer your assurances that your general recollection of events is entirely correct and that you have lived at the same address for the past 27 years and have always left the bins right in front of your house on a Tuesday evening for a Wednesday morning collection, this occasion being no exception.
There then follows at the other end a moment’s silence, after which the right lady says, “I see.” But just when you think that you are finally getting through, she plays the trump card. At least you think she thinks it’s her trump card because there is no disguising a triumphant note in her voice, “But our contractors haven’t reported any non-collections this morning.” You then say that of course they haven’t reported any non-collections because they can’t have noticed that they have left your rubbish behind. After all, if they had noticed that they were leaving a full bin behind, they would have emptied it, wouldn’t they? But, as you are saying this, the surrealism of the whole scenario suddenly hits you hard, and you actually start doubting your own sanity. Luckily, the right lady cannot see your bewildered expression and finally concedes defeat. “All right then, I will log your non-collection and notify the contractor.”
“So are they going to come back for my rubbish today?”
“Today? No, no, no.”
“Why not? It’s not even 10 o’clock yet, so they must still be in the area.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“How does it work?”
“You have to give it 48 hours.”
“But why?”
“Because you have to give it 48 hours.”
“And what if they don’t come back within 48 hours?”
“You will have to wait till the next collection.”
“But, look, it’s beginning to smell already. By next week, it will have stunk the whole neighbourhood out.”
“Well, if they don’t come back, you could call again, I suppose.”
When the refuse collectors fail to turn up within the next 48 hours, you call the council again, and they put you on hold and play you some soporific music … you get the picture. The script will be slightly different this time – but not much. So, anyway, I had been trying to call the council but obviously misdialled the number, and now I was seriously intrigued by the Foremost Authority with its mysterious regulation and transformation. And delivery, of course.

Post 3: Hangings in the British media

Area: grammar
Topic: dangling participles

“Cha-a-a-ard!!!”
“Isn’t it stationed in London?”
“What?”
“Shard. Actually, I observed it – before I reached here.”
“No, no, Chen, she means Chardonnay – her daughter.”
Waverley (whom I had introduced in my first blog post) was indeed screaming her daughter’s name at the top of her lungs. This was the usual volume at which she transmitted her messages to her offspring, which is why we were privy to more of her family’s goings-on than we would have elected to be, Waverley and her clan residing right next door. As usual, she was chocka with overseas executives trying to improve their English with Waverleys Executive English, and Chen, a delightful Chinese lady, was her latest overspill, which she, as usual, channelled in my direction.
“I didn’ tell her you was Polish, like,” reassured me Waverley.
“Were.”
“Where what?”
“No, not where – were: you were.”
“I was what, hon?”
“No, no, I mean you were Polish.”
“Was I heck as like. I’m an East End gal, me. ”
“No, Wave, what I meant was … oh, never mind.”
Akito, my lovely Japanese student having, regrettably, now returned to Tokyo, I was very happy to host Chen, who turned out to be equally well-mannered. Slightly older than Akito – late twenties, perhaps – she was a currency trader in Beijing, and her English was much better, if a tad artificial, which was, of course, completely understandable. This is why I had no hesitation in exposing her to the sophisticated language of the British newspapers and had organised a few for her to peruse, Chen seizing on them with gratifying eagerness.
“How do you effectuate this here?”
“What, Chen?”
“Capital punishment. In China, we shoot or offer a mortal injection.”
“Lethal.”
“Pardon me?”
“Lethal injection.”
Chen nodded. “Much obliged, lethal injection.”
“But we have no death penalty in Britain.”
Chen looked somewhat nonplussed. “But … but they … but this … ” Slightly hesitatingly, she handed me a copy of The Independent she had been reading. “Here, please observe this.” She pointed out the source of her discombobulation, her physiognomy now decidedly perplexed. I read the offending sentence, which went like this.

Until disposed of, she will, in effect, be in limbo.

“Oh this, ha, ha, ha! They simply hanged the participle, Chen.”
“Hanged? So you do hang here?”
“No, no, no, not people – participles. It’s an extremely common error.”
“But … but you explicated that this Independent was a quality newspaper … ”
“It is indeed; well, it’s supposed to be, anyway. But they hang their participles everywhere: on the TV and radio, in education, in government, in the … ”
“In government!?! Our Communist Party would not license any error.” On arrival, Chen had proudly informed me that she was a dedicated member of the Communist Party of China. I briefly wondered how a conviction communist becomes a currency trader, but I was too preoccupied with my duties to dissect this conundrum with sufficient analyticity.
“A-a-a-a, but we have democracy here. Uhrm … I mean … what I was trying to say is that we cherish our press freedom … no, no, I mean … ehem, ehem … ” My desperate attempt to extricate myself from my faux-pas only appeared to make matters worse, for Chen shot me a look infused with incredulity. It was clear that a scientific approach was called for.
“What I meant, Chen, was that participles such as this disposed always relate to the subject of the clause which governs them, but people often erroneously relate them to words from an earlier context.”
“In Great Britain?”
“Yep. Such misrelated participles are called ‘unattached’, ‘unrelated’, ‘disconnected’, ‘suspended’, ‘pendant’, ‘hanging’ or ‘dangling’. You see, they were talking about her late husband’s frozen sperm, so what they should have said is this.”

Until it [OR the sperm] is disposed of, she will, in effect, be in limbo.

Having cogitated for a brief moment, Chen nodded.
“But that’s not the only type of dangling participle, Chen.”
“It is not?”
“Nope. People often misrelate participles within the same sentence; in fact, this blunder is even more common.”
“Even more common?”
“Yep. I remember this one – from the BBC.”
“From the BBC?”
“Yep; listen.” The sentence, which had firmly lodged itself in my cerebrum, went like this.

After leaving a trail of destruction, forecasters predict the rain will continue.

“Obviously, it wasn’t the forecasters who wreaked such havoc but the rain: the BBC can’t have realised that an initial participle such as this leaving will always relate to its subject.”
“You signify the British Broadcasting Corporation?”
“‘Fraid so, Chen. So which is the subject of the participle leaving?”
“Forecasters.”
“Spot on. But this participle is meant to refer to the rain, of course, so what they should have said is this.”

After leaving a trail of destruction, the rain will continue predict forecasters.

“Or ‘according to forecasters’. And this was said on ITV1; it’s another of our TV channels.” I quoted the indelible sentence.

Found dead in her bed, tonight her uncle is under arrest.

“Is this veracious?”
“Yep, it’s absolutely true they came up with this, but the uncle hadn’t died, of course. So we’d have to say something along those lines.”

She was found dead in her bed, and, tonight, her uncle is under arrest.

“Thoroughly,” agreed the young lady.
“Actually, Chen, this error is so widespread that I have written a whole book about it; it’s called Hilarity with Misrelated Participles. I also compose little ditties; I’ve penned one about the importance of identifying the subject to avoid this mishap. It’s from another book of mine: An Alien in a Madhouse; listen.”

Your position will be abject
If you can’t pinpoint the subject:
You will trip and, in your tangle,
Make your participles dangle.

“Applaudable,” opined Chen in her inimitable fashion.
“Thank you, Chen.”