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When writing English, Strunk & White apply.

Am I the only one who sees a dangling modifier here?

It may be borderline, but how close to the border?

In "strict mode", my ears hear:

When they write English, Strunk & White apply.

What do you hear?

This would sound clearer to me:

When writing English, follow Strunk & White.

If the thang does dangle, it's a tad embarrassing because it features in a style guide. How to give an admonishment and break it at the same time...

  • I cannot actually tell what your question is here. – tchrist May 12 '14 at 21:22
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    I'm no great fan of Strunk & White at the best of times, and this could perhaps be a US/UK difference, but "Strunk & White applies" seems better to me. After all, it's "Strunk & White is a style guide", not "Strunk & White are a style guide". – FumbleFingers May 12 '14 at 21:23
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    It is a dangling modifier alright, and it is also true that Strunk and White don't like dangling modifiers. However, Strunk and White cannot comprehend or follow their own advice on a great many accounts and occasions, so this sentence is, at worst, perfectly in line with Strunk and White, and at best, actually a clever stab at their ineptitude. – RegDwigнt May 12 '14 at 21:26
  • @tchrist: In follow Strunk & White, the implied "subject" for writing is a deleted you - which gets around the "dangling modifier" issue. The question is whether the lack of a credible implied subject in OP's first example makes it an "ungrammatical" example of a dangling modifier. – FumbleFingers May 12 '14 at 21:28
  • @FumbleFingers - I can see the theoretical point you're making, but the prescription reads like an out-and-out instruction, not an instance of an elided pronoun. – Erik Kowal May 12 '14 at 21:29
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I guess it was B. Bryson who said that to know English is to know when one may actually use DM. However, I try to avoid them at all times, and I think "When writing English, follow Strunk & White." sounds way better than "When writing English, Strunk & White apply.", which seems sort of clumsy. Anyway, I'm not a native speaker so...

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    You may not be a native speaker - but I am, and I think everything you say here is spot-on. – FumbleFingers May 12 '14 at 22:34
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    "When writing English, Strunk & White apply" sounds like early Yoda. – Edwin Ashworth May 12 '14 at 22:55

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