Dangling Participle (and its twin, Misplaced Modifier) are funny-at-best, confusing-at-worst little monsters that can run amuck through copy and fiction, causing the reader to stop and go, "Huh??" At least they should.
To understand dangling participles, you need to know what a participle is. A participle is a verbal, which means it is formed from a verb, but doesn't behave as a verb. It acts as an adjective (or noun or adverb).
run ---> running ---> running nose (Running describes nose.)
shine ---> shining ---> shining sun (Shining describes sun.)
cover ---> covered ---. covered ground (Covered describes ground.)
Participles may be formed into participial phrases.
Someone knocking on the door woke me up.
The participial phrase is knocking on the door. (Verbal plus prepositional phrase)
It describes someone. What did "someone" do? Woke me up.
How does a participle or participial become a dangler?
Running through the park, the sunshine was bright.
Running through the park is the participial phrase. What is it modifying? Not "the sunshine". Nothing. It's "dangling" in the sentence with nothing to modify. Assumed meaning of the sentence, that is, assuming "I" is an unspoken modified noun is not adequate. You must add the word to be modified.
Better. Running through the park, I enjoyed the bright sunshine.
While riding the horse yesterday, the tree fell down.
Better. While I was riding the horse yesterday, the tree fell down.
A misplaced modifier is so closely related, the difference may be barely discernible.
Running through the park, the sun shone down on me.
"The sun" is the closest noun in proximity to the participial phrase "running through the park." The sun is NOT running through the park. I am. Rearrange the sentence to make sure the noun being modified is closest to the modifier.
The sun shone down on me while I was running through the park.
Running through the park, I enjoyed the sun shining down on me.
For some classic and funny misplaced / dangling modifiers, visit here
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