Be very worried if your sentence begins with “By any verb ending in -ing.” The odds are about 50/50 you’ll fall into a syntax trap.
By justifying the actions of the FBI, Director Comey hopes to assure Americans that their constitutional rights are being respected.
- The opening phrase names an action taken by someone.
- The person who acted immediately follows.
By naming the actor immediately after the action, the author wrote a good sentence.
By diminishing our personal privacy, it is only a matter of time until we fall victim to constitutional abuses on every scale.
This sentence fails to identify how our privacy is diminished, or by whom. The only apparent subject for the action is “it.” And we have no idea who or what “it” is.
Revise the sentence in a Reply below either by providing an actor for the action, or by eliminating the dangerous “By phrase” altogether.