Pick up any usage book and you’ll be sure find a discussion of dangling participles. Participles are formed from verbs but act as adjectives, and as such, they require an appropriate noun to modify. When they fail to meet this requirement, they are said to dangle. Here, I’m going to focus on a specific participle that often dangles in scientific writing: the past participle “followed.” Let’s look at some sentences.

Metal precursors were introduced into separate polymer blocks, followed by removal of the templates by pyrolysis.

What noun does “followed” modify—that is, what was followed by removal of the templates? Neither the nearest noun, “blocks,” nor the noun at the beginning of the sentence, “precursors,” will work. The author intended “followed” to modify a noun that doesn’t actually appear in the sentence, “introduction”:

Introduction of the metal precursors was followed by removal of the templates by pyrolysis.

Making the intended referrent explicit is one solution. Another is to convert the participial phrase into a clause and indicate the sequence of events by adding “subsequently”:

Metal precursors were introduced into separate polymer blocks, and the templates were subsequently removed by pyrolysis.

Here are some additional example sentences, along with suggested revisions in italics:

  • We prepared anhydrous CDCl3 by drying commercial CDCl3 over CaSO4 followed by distillation under nitrogen.

We prepared anhydrous CDCl3 by drying commercial CDCl3 over CaSO4 and then distilling it under nitrogen.

  • Coated coverslips were prepared by adding polymer solution (20 μL) followed by spin-coating.

Coated coverslips were prepared by the addition of polymer solution (20 μL) and subsequent spin-coating.

  • In 1997, continuous monitoring of CO was initiated on the first ship followed by the other two ships in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

In 1997, continuous monitoring of CO was initiated on the first ship, and CO monitoring on the other two ships began in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

  • The catalyst and the activated carbon were mixed in an agate mortar, followed by pelletizing and sieving into 0.15–0.25 mm granules.

The catalyst and the activated carbon were mixed in an agate mortar, and the mixture was then pelletized and sieved into 0.15–0.25 mm granules.

  • The sample was pretreated in 5% O2/He at 500°C for 1 h, followed by cooling down to 150°C.

The sample was pretreated in 5% O2/He at 500°C for 1 h and then cooled to 150°C.

  • Cooperative action of the anion and the metal center promoted ring opening to generate an oxyanion, which then attacked CO2 followed by ring closure to afford the cyclic carbonate.

Cooperative action of the anion and the metal center promoted ring opening to generate an oxyanion, which then attacked CO2; subsequent ring closure afforded the cyclic carbonate.

Cooperative action of the anion and the metal center promoted ring opening to generate an oxyanion; the oxyanion then attacked CO2, and subsequent ring closure afforded the cyclic carbonate.

  • The focal adhesions at the blunt end of the teardrop were retracted, whereas those at the sharp end were extended, followed by nucleus translocation into the neighboring teardrop.

The focal adhesions at the blunt end of the teardrop were retracted, whereas those at the sharp end were extended; the nucleus was subsequently translocated into the neighboring teardrop.

The focal adhesions at the blunt end of the teardrop were retracted. In contrast, those at the sharp end were extended, and the nucleus was subsequently translocated into the neighboring teardrop.

  • The lysates were incubated with MeHg for 30 min at 37°C, followed by reaction with 10 µM BPM for 30 min at 37°C.

The lysates were incubated with MeHg for 30 min at 37°C and then allowed to react with 10 µM BPM for 30 min at 37°C.

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