Opening my Washington Post to the op-ed page one day early in the new year, my eye fell on the opening sentence of David Ignatius’s column: “Sailing smoothly into this first week of the 21st century, it’s hard to see storm clouds on the horizon.” Did my eye open the paper as well as “fall”? Did the impersonal “it” do the smooth sailing for Mr. Ignatius? No in both cases. Is there any danger of your misunderstanding either my meaning or his as a result of what American high school pupils were once taught to call a “dangling participle”? Also no. So then, does this alleged mistake really matter? Nowadays, either of the two possible answers to that question is likely to follow “Of course …”

Talk about your culture wars! I belong to the “Of-course-it-does” faction, and so to the “Of-course-it-doesn’t”s I am a troglodyte and a...

 

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