If you aren't convinced that dangling clauses can be dangerous, take a look at this statement released Tuesday by vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Her subject is the senior senator from Alaska, Palin's fellow Republican Ted Stevens:
“After being found guilty on seven felony counts, I had hoped Senator Stevens would take the opportunity to do the statesman-like thing and erase the cloud that is covering his Senate seat,” Ms. Palin said in a statement released by the campaign. “He has not done so. Alaskans are grateful for his decades of public service, but the time has come for him to step aside.”
(The quotation appears in the ninth paragraph of this New York Times story.)
Stevens, not Palin, was found guilty on seven felony counts. But that's not what the grammar of the first sentence tells us. As it's written, the sentence's subject is "I"—Ms. Palin—which means she's saying that she was found guilty. (She was found, earlier this month, to have violated Alaska state ethics laws in her handling of the "Troopergate" incident—but then, in an Orwellian feat of mental gymnastics, she claimed that the ethics panel's report cleared her of wrongdoing, which it emphatically did not. So maybe there's an unconscious mea culpa being expressed here.)
This sort of error is often forgivable in off-the-cuff spoken English, but I see no excuse for it an a written statement. It would have been clearer, and more accurate, to write, "After Senator Stevens was found guilty... I hoped [note: simple past tense] he would take the opportunity..."
As for "the statesman-like thing" and "erase the cloud"—well, maybe Governor Palin writes her own statements, possibly out of a misguided sense of thrift that would have been more sensibly applied to her wardrobe and makeup expenditures. But modeling her writing style on her speaking style? Not such a good idea.