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I’m not sure what this grammar point is called

After V1- ing, Subject + V2.

But I was taught that in this case, V1 should belong to the Subject. I mean the Subject in the sentence does the first action (V1). For example

After finishing the test, I left the room.

In this sentence, “I” is the one who does the action “finish the test”.

However, the sentence below which is taken from an essay in Great Writing 4 (National Geographic Learning) does not follow that structure:

After ironing a piece of clothing meticulously, which entails smoothing out the fabric, following the seams, and getting the creases just right, it needs to be put on a hanger as soon as possible.

In this case, who does the action “iron a piece of clothing meticulously”? If the subject is it, which refers to “a piece of clothing”, why isn’t it “after being ironed, […] it needs to be put on a hanger as soon as possible.”?

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  • I think the paragraph is grammatically incorrect. Because of all the material between clothing and it, the error is not obvious.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 9:54

2 Answers 2

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That's a dangling participle, a classic mistake even educated speakers make. In this case at least the meaning is clear (sometimes there is ambiguity), but it is objectively ungrammatical. Your analysis is correct.

The sentence would need to be rewritten either so that the clothing is the subject of the first clause ("A piece of clothing, after being ironed meticulously..."), or so that the person is the subject of the second clause ("put it on a hanger as soon as possible").

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The recommendation to avoid dangling participles is a prescriptive rule that doesn't always describe how the language is actually used. It may lead to clearer writing in some circumstances, but in the example presented above, I don't think any reader would have trouble understanding that "it" refers to the piece of clothing, not the person doing the ironing.

The identity of the person doing the ironing may not be relevant; without elaboration it can be assumed to be someone in general.

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