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I have this sentence:

Otherwise, if it has an ancestor which encloses the target section, we can specify another anchor which shares the same ancestor; then, by specifying these two anchors and selecting the “Common Ancestor”, the context is created OR create the context.

Could the last clause be "create the context" so its subject (we) is in the previous sentences? or if it be the context is created is an example of dangling modifier?

  • Instead of "create the context", I would write "the context will be (or needs to be) created". – user3169 Jun 27 '15 at 22:35
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    Arguably, I think you can do that, but why make it difficult for the reader? My suggestion (as a quick fix): Otherwise, if ..., we can specify ..., and then create the context by specifying ... and selecting ... – Damkerng T. Jun 28 '15 at 10:38
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The basic goal this awful, confusingly worded sentence is trying to achieve is if X then Y. To me, the writer has attempted to specify that Y is two things, each which is modified by the "by specifying ..." phrase.

  • a desired result becomes achieved ("the context is created") by "specifying these two anchors ...", or

  • You are asked to create the context (and thus make the desired result exist) by "specifying these two anchors ..." - "create the context" seems like it's trying to be an imperative to me.

  • I myself answered the question,please check what you think about. – Ahmad Jun 29 '15 at 6:07
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Here is what I might try:

Otherwise, if it has an ancestor enclosing the target section, by specifying the common ancestor and identifying the two anchors, the context has been established.

I am still not entirely happy with it, but I think it is better than the original.

  • I myself answered the question, please check what you think about – Ahmad Jun 29 '15 at 6:07
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The question is about dangling modifier where the subject of the last clause "context is created" and the subject of "specifying" is expected to be "we". Based on the comments of Damekerng, I myself think I need to change the order of two last parts:

Otherwise, if it has an ancestor which encloses the target section, we can specify another anchor which shares the same ancestor; then, create the context by specifying these two anchors and selecting the “Common Ancestor”.

In this sentence the subject of the bold part is refered to the previous subject "we", while in the original version it wasn't clear.

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    Yes, that would do it. Another way is to simply insert "we" before "create" in your second alternative stated in your question. This makes the subject of "create" clear. The problem with "is created" is that it switches from active to passive voice; that's what makes the antecedent unclear. – Brian Hitchcock Jun 29 '15 at 8:01

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