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Excuse Me, but I'm Afraid Your As Is Dangling

Two Tips for Avoiding Awkward Sentences

Tip #1:  If you start a sentence with a modifier (that is, with a descriptive -ed or -ing word or an "As… " phrase) you must be sure that the subject of the sentence connects logically with that modifier. Don't let the modifier "dangle" unattached. Ask yourself, "Who is doing this?" and then be sure that the subject of the sentence you wrote provides the correct answer.   

Awkward: As a certified addictions counselor, higher paychecks can be expected.

Better: As a certified addictions counselor, you can expect higher paychecks.

(It isn't the paychecks that are the certified addictions counselor, it's the person you're speaking to.)

Awkward: Chained to my desk, the piles of paperwork seem to be growing by the hour.

Better:  Chained to my desk, I felt as though the piles of paperwork are growing by the hour.

(It isn't the piles of paperwork that are chained to the desk, it's you yourself.)

Awkward: Being a dedicated counselor, appointments should not be cancelled just because of tiredness.

Better: Being a dedicated counselor, I know that appointments should not be cancelled just because of tiredness.

(It isn't the appointments that are the dedicated counselor, it's the person speaking.)

Tip #2: Keep modifiers as close as possible to the words they describe, to prevent possible misunderstandings.

Awkward: Caught wearing nothing but a raincoat, the police quickly arrested the flasher. (This sentence makes it sound as though the policemen were working in their birthday suits rather than in their uniforms.)

Better: The police quickly arrested the flasher caught wearing nothing but a raincoat.

Awkward: She spoke to the client sitting on her desk.  (Who was on the desk, she or the client?)

Better:   Sitting on her desk, she spoke to the client --or-- She spoke to the client who was sitting on her desk.

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