When a sentence’s components lose their connection.
A dangler is what happens when one part of a sentence isn’t tied securely to the other part—and ends up dangling sadly alone with nothing to anchor it.
Spot the deliberate mistake
What’s wrong with the following sentence?
Speaking as a student of grammar, this error is one of the commonest I’ve come across.
Some student of grammar… In the two pieces of that sentence (they’re separated by the comma), the subject of the first is the person speaking as a student of grammar; it’s I, in fact. In the second part, however, the subject has somehow morphed into this error. Erroneously. In a sentence like this, the subjects in both parts have to match; otherwise, that first part is dangling—it’s lost its connection.
To haul the dangler back in and reconnect it to the rest of the sentence, the subject of the second part has to be switched around to match the first—or, alternatively, the first part has to be rewritten to make the second part work as it is:
1. Speaking as a student of grammar, I’ve found that this is one of the commonest errors there is.
2. I’ve been a student of grammar for years, and this error is one of the commonest I’ve come across.
Getting it right
Just remember: when you start a sentence from the point of view of a particular person or thing, the rest of the sentence has to keep that same point of view. Don’t let your dangling subject twist slowly, slowly in that cold, ungrammatical wind.