How do you recognize a participle?
A participle is an -ing or -ed verb that acts like an adjective in a sentence. It is one of three different verb forms called verbals in which verbs do something other than just be the verb of the sentence.
Here's some examples:
Present participle = -ing
As a regular old verb: The dog is barking his head off.
As a participle: The barking dog scared the children. (Barking is modifying dog as an adjective)
Past participle = -ed (and sometimes irregular forms)
As a regular old verb: Yesterday, we shaved our dog’s hair for the summer.
As a participle: The shaved dog looks skinny.
If you have what you think is a participle, you can remove it from the sentence, and the sentence will be less specific, but still make sense. If what you have is the verb of the sentence and you remove it, the sentence will no longer make sense.
Even though a participle acts like an adjective, it can still be completed or modified like a verb.
So, it can have direct objects, indirect objects, adverbs and prepositional phrases as part of it. All together, we call these words a participial phrase.
Shaved under the belly, the dog didn’t get wet on his morning walk.
The campfire finale was the Camp Director giving us the shivers with his spooky tale.
How do you punctuate a participle?
Participles that come at the start of the sentence get a comma after them, much like any other introductory word or phrase.
Participles anywhere else in the sentence are only set apart by commas if they are part of a participial phrase and contain non-essential information (this is called an non-restrictive participle). If the participial phrases' information is deemed essential, then no commas are required.
Start of sentence: Singing, the girl took a long time in the shower.
Non essential information (set apart with commas): I paid a lot of money for the painting, containing mostly blue tones. [The color of the paint is not important to a discussion of how much the painting cost.]
Essential information (not set apart with commas): I paid a lot of money for the painting hanging near the door. [If there are many paintings, it is essential to know which one was so expensive.]