I'm a programmer and I'm combing through some code and entering comments to help other developers. I wrote the following sentence and got confused by the (possibly) dangling verb. I've spared you the the jargon by replacing with [tech fix].

  1. I've put in this [tech fix] to make future modifications easier.

It didn't look right, so changed it to try to make it follow make:

  1. I've put in this [tech fix] to make future modifications more easily.


  1. I've put in this [tech fix] to make future modifications easy.

My reasoning is that if the sentence could be rewritten as the following, then case 2 above would be correct.

  1. I've put in this [tech fix] to more easily make future modifications

In the above sentences, which is more correct, easier or more easily? Please help me understand the difference by decomposing the sentence.

  • 2
    Side note: If you need to justify a piece of code, it probably isn't making future maintenance easier... – Ian MacDonald Mar 9 '15 at 17:19
  • 2
    Your first attempt is idiomatic (ie sounds fine). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 9 '15 at 17:22
  • 1
    Firstly, code comments are a good example of a situation where you can probably sacrifice grammatical perfection for readability (even though in this case your first suggestion was fine). Secondly, as Ian pointed out above, you probably need to think about what value the comments are adding for a colleague. Your specific case looks like it should be in the source control check-in notes rather than in the code. I've had to work on code before where, despite the good intention, there are just too many comments and it reaches a point where you can't see the wood for the trees. – Robin Williams Mar 9 '15 at 20:42
  • Wow, I didn't think the tech part would elicit so much attention :), so, just for context, I can explain: I left in a Switch statement with only two cases where an If statement would have sufficed. A junior developer might have just as well thought, "this guy's nuts" and refactored with an if/else; creating lots of spaghetti. I put in the comment to prevent that from happening, since this is a point in the code where the client's needs will dictate more than 2-way branching in the near future. I'm not sure this makes sense without seeing the code, but I hope this helps. – jasonseminara Mar 10 '15 at 2:11
  • Refactoring a switch/case into an if/else is unnecessary busy-work and anyone doing so should be fired immediately (or at least heavily reprimanded -- i.e., they buy the beers for that Beers Friday). – Ian MacDonald Mar 10 '15 at 2:13

Don't worry, no participles are dangling in any of your suggestions. (Grammar Girl has a good example on page 2 of http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/dangling-participles)

"Easier" and "more easily" are not the same. "Easier" is the comparative form of the adjective "easy". The modifications won't be easy. The making of them will be easy.

Your infinitive "to make ..." is modifying your code fix. "More easily" is modifying the infinitive.

That said, splitting the infinitive makes the modification of the verb a little stronger at the expense of the rest of the phrase. Think Star Trek: To boldly go....

I might use the infinitive phrase to introduce the main clause. "To make future modifications more easily, I did xyz." I might not. I have learned to be sensitive to coders who don't read English as a first language.

I changed this method from using a signed int to an unsigned int so that future modifications can be made more easily.

Is more easily make == make (…) more easily. ? Yes

  • I've asked a few grammatically-inclided friends of mine, and they think that ...more easily seems to modify the 'modifications' more than the 'make'. Another writer friend of mine also stated, "death to adverbs; rewrite it!". I guess I can't win. :) – jasonseminara Mar 10 '15 at 2:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.