Do You Dangle?

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In high school, there was a group of boys that I knew who would always say, “Can I dangle for your delight?” This phrase was often followed by bouts of boyish giggling as they all enjoyed their wit, referring to their favorite part of their anatomy in a silly bit of almost alliterative humor. My reaction was usually to roll my eyes and make a hasty exit from their general area before anyone actually dangled anything.

But years later, I still hear their boyish proposition every time my prose results in a dangling preposition. I see my for, out, before, or in hanging there, precariously perched at the end of my phrase construction, peering over the ledge of poor grammar, dangling for my delight.

So I do what any respectable writer would do: I fix it. However, I find that many times it my correction sounds way too formal.

There is no question that in speech we dangle prepositions all the time in regular speech. It’s so natural an occurrence in American English that as a writer, it almost seems unnatural when you correct it. For example, in the post I was just writing for my client my sentence originally read:

Some people actually have taste buds that are especially receptive to the bitter taste some vegetables are known for.

Which I then corrected to:

Some people actually have taste buds that are especially receptive to the bitter taste for which some vegetables are known.

I know the second sentence is better writing. But if I’m honest, it also sounds a little stiff. Since this particular blog post is for a doctor, I suppose that stiff and formal isn’t exactly the wrong tone. But I can’t help but think when I read this that maybe an occasional dangling preposition isn’t exactly the worst crime in the grammar realm.

Which sentence would you use? What do you think about dangling prepositions: Is it a grammar rule that needs to be broken? Tell me, when it comes to dangling prepositions, where are you at?

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