Yesterday, Norm Geras spotted a lovely dangling modifier for the Fellowship of the Predicative Adjunct's collection. The source was an article by Tim Adams ("The town that made Margaret", The Guardian, 4/5/2009), which featured this second sentence:
Now 83, and long gone from power, Britons remain fiercely divided over the reign of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher is the one who's "now 83" and "long gone from power", but the handiest peg to hang these modifiers on is the subject, "Britons". Geoff Pullum has argued ("Stunningly inept modifier manners", 3/10/2005) that such sentences don't "violate the syntactic correctness conditions for English", they're just "bad grammatical manners, the syntactic analog of … eating the butter from the butter dish".
A few days ago, a reader suggested politely that I might have committed such a breach of manners in the first sentence of my post "Why 'that would be me'? (part 2)", 4/3/2009:
As promised in part 1, I'm going to survey CGEL's taxonomy of uses of would, and do a tiny corpus study to get an idea of their relative frequency.
I try not to eat out of the syntactic butter dish, but I do spill some syntactic soup down the front of my shirt from time to time, because as a blogger, I follow the writing advice of Raul Julia's character Franco in the movie Gumball Rally:
"And now, my friend, the first rule of Italian driving. [Franco rips off his rear-view mirror and throws it out of the car.] What's behind me is not important."
But in this case, I consider myself innocent of any offense against grammatical decorum.
Dangling modifiers dangle because they're meant to modify a noun that's either absent or inaccessible. Thus in in this classic example from 2003, "rich and creamy" is meant for "pie" but ends up on, embarrassingly, on the guests:
Rich and creamy, your guests will never guess that this pie is light.
But phrases of the form "as <past participle> …" are generally sentence modifiers, at least where the verb in question is one like promise, suggest, explain, argue, etc., which takes a sentential complement. Consider these examples from published articles and books, and ask yourself in each case what is being modified:
Many attorneys in New York strive to contribute fifty hours of pro bono assistance each year, as suggested by the New York County Bar Association.
On April 15, Marc Hauser will discuss how our moral instinct evolved, as explained in his landmark book, “Moral Minds" …
As promised in the Quebec budget two weeks ago, the government is going ahead with $106 million in improvements to Quebec's northern airports …
As argued by appellee, the only possible status of a company acting under charters from two states is that it is an association incorporated in and by each of the states …
I think it by no means improbable that — as conjectured by Krause — the so-called "disk" … may bring from the ovary the materials out of which the chorion is formed …
In contrast, phrases of the form "as <noun phrase>" are typically nominal modifiers, and thus can "dangle" when their intended heads are absent or less accessible than another possible alternative. Here are some current examples from the web:
As an American, it was impossible not to feel proud of the team that wears “USA” on their uniforms.
As an American, it's embarrassing watching my President bow to another man and his wife hug a queen.
As an American, this stereotype was hardwired in my subconscious …
But a sentential modifier like "as promised" or "as suggested" need only be in appropriate contact with the sentence it modifies.
I suspect that my correspondent may have learned the false rule that an initial adjunct must always modify the subject of the following clause, a policy that would ban all sentence adverbs from initial position. Or perhaps he interpreted "as promised" on the model of as <past-participle> phrases that are do modify nouns, e.g. "as written", "as originally designed", etc.