How to identify a dangling modifier:
Held at the Dupont Circle town house of Peter Bergen, the CNN terrorism expert, the party’s heavily mediacentric guest list included Michael Isikoff of Newsweek; a former Clinton mouthpiece, Joe Lockhart; the political blogger Mickey Kaus; and a former Howard Dean spokeswoman, Tricia Enright.
The verb has to modify the correct noun. It’s appropriate that one of the most basic grammar errors appears in a New York Times piece on Wonkette‘s blog. You know, the one that’s so notorious because there are no editors around to take the cusswords out.
A sentence with one of these introductory clauses …
“Daring the press to misquote him, Bush said nothing for 45 minutes.”
should peg your dangler detector. Writers get it wrong as often as they get it right. I think a sharp rap on the knuckles with a pica pole would properly discourage writers from backassward sentence structure, but they would avenge the affront by filing their stories later and longer. Don’t need that.
Besides, if writers got everything right I’d be wandering a street in San Francsico with a “please help” sign written in crayon.
If you can’t kill a dangler for the good of mankind, kill one for me. Or, on second thought, leave it in the story, send me a link when it’s published and I’ll denounce it here. That way, everybody wins.