MM Pollard here to welcome you to this workshop on editing. You'll learn five editing strategies, one a lesson. You will use these strategies to find and correct five different errors writers make.
You don't have to do any homework, but each lesson ends with an assignment. I was an English teacher for 15 years. Old habits die hard, and some never do! If you post your assignment on the homework thread for that lesson, I will offer comments.

Let's begin -- I'm sure it's August 1st somewhere in the world!

Become a Better Editor of Your Own Work,
presented by MM Pollard, editor, Black Velvet Seductions

Lesson 1

Strategy #1. Look at a hard copy. Use different font, margins, double-space, and enlarge the text to make it easier to read and print a chapter of your work youíd like to edit this week. Because youíre not used to seeing your work as a hard copy, you will have to focus more as you read Ė more focus leads to finding more mistakes.

Even if you choose not to print your work, changing the font, font size, font color, and margins will make your work appear different on the computer screen.

Problem 1: problematic participial phrases
We will use this strategy to find and correct dangling participial phrases.

--Standing on a ladder that leaned hazardously against the overhang of the new, stone complex Paulís hands struggled with the last knot of the banner that proudly announced that the Grand Opening of Le Gourmet would be on April 1st.--

The definition for muddled, confused and aimless, is perfect to describe the sentence above.

That sentence has a story behind it.

When I won a book she had wanted to read through a contest on a website, I was excited. Imagine, if you can, me sitting in my favorite leather rocker-recliner. My feet are relaxing on the matching rocking footstool. It has been a long day of adding semicolons and taking out commas, and all I want to do is lose myself in my new book for a few hours. I open to the first page and read a sentence much like--
Standing on a ladder that leaned hazardously against the overhang of the new, stone complex Paulís hands struggled with the last knot of the banner that proudly announced that the Grand Opening of Le Gourmet would be on April 1st.

The dangling participial phrase jumps off the page and nearly knocks me out of my seat. Forget about losing myself in the book. I want to call the author and offer him this workshop.

Enough of that, letís start todayís lesson.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO REMEMBER FROM THIS LESSON-
You have lots of information on participial phrases in this lesson. Here are five points you need to remember when you use participial phrases. If you understand the five points, then you might not need to read the rest of the lesson. If participial phrases are new to you or you use them often, you might want to read through the material here.

  1. Make sure you have a present participle or past participle partnered with a helping verb if you want the participle to act as the main verb in a clause.
is going has been walking has seen had found

  1. If you want a present or past participle to introduce an adjective phrase, you must place the participial phrase nearest the noun or pronoun it modifies.
Crying her heart out, the child refused to let her mother comfort her. Whoís crying? The child. The PARTICIPIAL PHRASE is in the correct spot.

  1. You must make sure that you state the noun or pronoun that the participial phrase modifies. Implying the noun or pronoun that the participial phrase modifies isnít good enough.
Crying her heart out, her mother tried to comfort the child. WRONG. In this sentence the mother is the one crying her heart out.

  1. You donít want to overuse participial phrases in your writing. Many times your sentences will be stronger if you turn the participial phrases into dependent clauses.

More info about participial phrases --
First of all, what do I mean by participial phrases? Present participles are verbs that end in Ėing. Past participles are verbs that end in
Ėed or whatever the past participles are for irregular verbs.
Both present and past participles must be partnered with a helping verb if they are the main verb in an independent or dependent clause.

For example,
I am going home for Easter. The verb is am going. Going is the present participle of go. Is is the helping verb.
I have gone home several times in the past few years, but never at Easter. Gone is the past participle of go. Have is the helping verb here.

In the above examples, each participle is part of the verb phrase in that sentence. Going and gone are verb forms acting as verbs here; in other words, theyíre doing what they were born to do.
What if you donít use a helping verb with a participle? You have a fragment. Thatís bad.
I going home for Easter. Ė fragment, not a sentence


The participles that cause all the trouble are used as adjectives. Think of them as being born verbs, but they grow up and take on the career of an adjective. They retain their verb DNA, but they act like adjectives. They enjoy the freedom they have as adjectives to modify nouns anywhere in the sentence, unlike verbs that donít modify anything and have a rather fixed place in an English sentence. Like verbs, they still express action or state of being. They feel they have the best of both worlds.

You will find participial phrases everywhere in a sentence. When a participial phrase begins a sentence, it must have a comma at the end of the phrase before the rest of the sentence. If a participial phrase appears in the middle of the sentence, commas before and after the phrase are needed. If one occurs at the end of the sentence, a comma before the phrases begin may be needed. Youíll have to read each sentence and decide. Let me show you what I mean. These examples use participial phrases correctly.

At the beginning:
Realizing she was lost, the young child screamed for her mommy.

In the middle:
The young child, sitting in the busy aisle, screamed for her mommy. Many authorities frown upon separating the subject child from its verb screamed by any phrase. In that case, you can rewrite the sentence--
Sitting in the busy aisle, the young child screamed for her mommy.

At the end:
The clerk tried to comfort the young child, shaking with fear.

The boldfaced phrase in each sentence is a participial phrase. The first word of the phrase is a verb form. Here I have used three present participles, realizing, sitting, and shaking. The noun that each participial phrase modifies is either the first noun after the phrase or right before the phrase. I have underlined these nouns in the above sentences.

Three easy steps to help you decide if you have a participle acting as part of the verb or acting as an adjective

You can use these three easy steps to help you decide if you have a participle or participial phrase in your sentence.

Step One: is the first word of the sentence a verb form ending in -ing, -ed, or is the past participle of a verb? If not, is there a verb form anywhere in the sentence that ends in Ėing, -ed, or is the past participle of a verb?


Step Two: What is the main clause of your sentence? Does it include the verb form you found in Step One or can you leave the verb form you found in Step One out and the sentence would still make sense?


Step Three: If you can leave the verb form out, then that verb form is a participle. If there are words that complete the participle, you have a participial phrase. Put a comma after the last word of the phrase if it begins the sentence.

EXAMPLE: Standing in the rain she waited for her hero to rescue her.
Step One: yes, standing is a verb form and it ends in -ing.
Step Two: My main clause is she waited for her hero to rescue her.
Step Three: standing in the rain is a participial phrase. Put a comma after rain.

EXAMPLE: Washing dishes is a big pain.
Step One: yes, washing is a verb form and it ends in -ing.
Step Two: My main clause is washing dishes is a big pain.
Step Three: I can't leave out washing dishes. If I did, I would have is a big pain -- no subject. Washing dishes isnít a participial phrase. (Itís a gerund phrase used as the subject of the sentence.)

DANGLING PARTICIPIAL PHRASES Ė
Why do participial phrases dangle? First, let me make it very clear; they should not be blamed for dangling any more than affect and effect should be accused of being confusing words. It is the responsibility of the writer to place participial phrases right next to the nouns they modify. Sometimes, though, the writer doesnít come out and state the noun. Maybe he is writing too quickly and just doesnít think, or maybe he thinks the reader will ďget it.Ē Either way, the noun that the participial phrase modifies is missing, leaving the participial phrase to dangle.

Now letís look at participial phrases that dangle.
Running down the street screaming, a calm bystander called 911.
A calm bystander wouldnít be running down the street screaming. The writer left out who is running and screaming.
As the screaming woman ran down the street, a calm bystander called 911.
I changed the participial phrase to a dependent clause with a subject Ė woman Ė and a verb Ė ran. Now screaming is a participle modifying woman. Since itís just one word, I can put it in the usual place for adjectives, before the noun it modifies.

I donít want to pick on romance writers, but it seems to me that they adore participial phrases. I wish they would lose the attraction. Many of these phrases are in sentences that go on forever (like the example at the beginning of the lesson), making them likely candidates for dangling or misplacement. Letís look at the first example I gave you again.
Standing on a ladder that leaned hazardously against the overhang of the new, stone complex Paulís hands struggled with the last knot of the banner that proudly announced that the Grand Opening of Le Gourmet would be on April 1st.

Do you see the participial phrase? Itís there at the beginning of the sentence -- Standing on a ladder that leaned hazardously against the overhang of the new, stone complex. There should be a comma after complex.

Now look for the subject of the sentence. What struggled with the last knot?
Hands struggled. Iím okay with that until I remember that participial phrase. The present participle is standing. Are Paulís hands standing on a ladder? If they are, how are they tying a knot at the same time?
It makes more sense if Paul is standing on the ladder. This one is easy to fix. Make the subject Paul and leave out hands. Dangling modifier problem is solved!
Standing on a ladder that leaned hazardously against the overhang of the new, stone complex, Paul struggled with the last knot of the banner that proudly announced that the Grand Opening of Le Gourmet would be on April 1st.

Another example of a dangling participial phrase Ė
Enjoying her retirement party more than she thought she would, her friends and coworkers wished her the best in her life after work.

Do you see the problem? First look at the participial phrase Ė she is enjoying her retirement party. Soooo, she must be the subject of the sentence that follows the participial phrase.
What is the subject of the sentence? Friends and coworkers. Problem!!! You could correct the problem by making she the subject. I would give her a name, though.
Enjoying her retirement party more than she thought she would, Julie appreciated the warm wishes from her friends and coworkers who joined her.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO REMEMBER FROM THIS LESSON-
We began this lesson with five points. Here they are again.
  1. Make sure you have a present participle or past participle partnered with a helping verb if you want the participle to act as the main verb in a clause.
is going has been walking has seen had found

  1. If you want a present or past participle to introduce an adjective phrase, you must place the participial phrase nearest the noun or pronoun it modifies.
Crying her heart out, the child refused to let her mother comfort her. Whoís crying? The child. The PARTICIPIAL PHRASE is in the correct spot.

  1. You must make sure that you state the noun or pronoun that the participial phrase modifies. Implying the noun or pronoun that the participial phrase modifies isnít good enough.
Crying her heart out, her mother tried to comfort the child. WRONG. In this sentence the mother is the one crying her heart out.

  1. You donít want to overuse participial phrases in your writing. Many times your sentences will be stronger if you turn the participial phrases into dependent clauses.

Before I give you your homework, let me finish the story about that book with the dangling participial phrase. I did read the book, and Iím glad I did. It was a good read that made me laugh in spots and cry in other spots. I suppose one shouldnít judge a book by its dangling participle.


Now you try it.
HOMEWORK: First, use the editing strategy we discussed at the beginning of the lesson. When you have made the changes suggested here to a chapter (no need to change the entire manuscript now), print the altered chapter (or a part of the chapter if itís long).

Second, go through this chapter and highlight every verb that begins a sentence, that ends in Ėing or ed, or is the past participle of a verb.

Third, decide if each highlighted verb form is part of a verb phrase. Go back to the section of this lesson titled three easy steps to help you decide. If the highlighted verb is part of a verb phrase, put a check in the margin beside the line the word is in. Thatís all youíll do with verb phrases.

Fourth, the focus of this lesson is on recognizing and correct participial phrases. Look at the other verb forms you have highlighted. Remember, youíre searching for Ėing words and Ėed words or past participles THAT ARE NOT THE MAIN VERBS IN THE SENTENCE. Decide if they are written correctly, or if they dangle, are misplaced or are misused.

Fifth, rewrite the sentences, correcting the participial problem. You may move the phrase to its correct location, add the word the dangling participle modifies, or you may rewrite the sentence without the participial phrase. Itís up to you. If you do keep the participial phrase, make sure it follows logic.
Go back to the examples I have given you if you canít decide how to correct the problem. When you rewrite the sentence, donít leave out any information; feel free to add, if youíd like to.

There you have it Ė your homework.

I look forward to receiving your homework. In case you couldnít tell, participial phrases are a pet peeve of mine.

If you have any questions about this lesson, please leave a comment or e-mail me with your questions.

MM