I was going to celebrate the announcement that DeSmet boosters would like to build a trail through the slough to isolated Laura Ingalls Wilder landmark Silver Lake and maybe extend the trail to wander all around Kingsbury County. (Spend a day or two wandering the prairie, then come back to town for supper at Dairy Queen? I’d come for that vacation!)
But then KELO-TV ruins the story with another of its execrable sentence fragments:
This nearly $2 million project will feature a boardwalk, hiking trails and a lookout tower, helping to bring the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder to life.
…After this phase of the project is complete, they hope to expand out into the rest of the county.
“When they are living or visiting in De Smet to basically experience this landscape that Laura wrote about so many years ago. So the vision is for this trail project to leave De Smet, cross over Big Slough which is right behind me, visit this Game Fish and Parks property across the slough and then carry on to destinations of interest across the county,” said Barett Steenrod, community planner for the National Parks Service.
Giving people a chance to walk along a piece of pioneer history [Ariana Schumacher, “A Trail Plan for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Silver Lake,” KELO-TV, 2022.06.27].
“Giving people a chance to walk along a piece of pioneer history” is not a sentence! It does not have a subject—who or what is doing the “giving”? At best, this fragment is a participial phrase referring back to something in the previous complete sentence, the quote from NPS’s Steenrod, perhaps “vision” or “project” or maybe the visiting and carrying on that Steenrod envisions people doing when the project is done. Tying this participial phrase to a noun a couple lines back in a quote is awkward and beyond the often workable remedy of replacing the period preceding the participial phrase with a comma. But that awkwardness doesn’t excuse leaving the participial phrase orphaned and helpless. As written, the fragment shows the author had a thought in her head but did not bother to make that thought clear to readers not privy to those internal senses of meaning.
The writer’s obligation is to reunite the orphaned participial phrase with its rightful parent, the noun to which it refers, and empower that grammatical subject with a real verb with predicative power: “This project will thus give visitors to Kingsbury County a chance to walk along a piece of pioneer history.”
Good grammar brings clarity. Bad grammar ruins a good story.
Don’t leave your participles lost and alone like Laura wandering in the grass. Connect those verbs with subjects!