a participle or participial phrase, often found at the beginning of a sentence, that appears from its position to modify an element of the sentence other than the one it was intended to modify, as plunging
in Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls.
Most usage guides warn against the dangling participle
and usually suggest revising any sentence that has one. The example Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls
would, by such guidelines, be recast as We saw Yosemite Falls plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge.
Constructions that may technically be classified as dangling participles
have, however, long been a feature of standard literary English and are today commonplace in speech and edited writing: Looking to the west, a deep river valley can be seen in the distance. Obviously, it is not the river valley that is looking to the west, but the sentence is nonetheless immediately clear and stylistically unexceptionable. Modern British writers are much less timid than their American counterparts about the use of such phrases.
Some participial constructions are never felt to be dangling or unattached. Some of these are simply independent phrases: Generally speaking, the report is true. Others have come to function as conjunctions or prepositions: Considering she has been through so much illness, she looks wonderful. Owing to the weather, the performance was canceled. Assuming congressional approval, the bill will go to the president on Friday. Despite many criticisms, dangling participles continue to appear in edited prose. Only when an unintentionally ridiculous meaning is suggested (Having finished our breakfast, the boat was loaded and launched) are dangling participles deliberately avoided. See also misplaced modifier.