Is there anything wrong with starting a lot of sentences with verbs that end in "-ing"?
Published: January 5, 2012
Q: Is there anything wrong with starting a lot of sentences with verbs that end in "–ing"? Here’s an example: “Swinging the bat, the ball soared past the wooden fence.”
A: Too much of any one stylistic choice can dampen the vibrancy of your prose. So, it’s a good idea to change things up, even at the sentence level. Based on your sample sentence, though, the problem goes beyond repetitive syntax. Let me explain.
Two things happen in this sentence: 1) he swung the bat and 2) the ball went past the wooden fence. The way you’ve constructed the sentence indicates they happened at the same time. As he swung the bat, the ball soared past the fence. While these actions certainly happen in quick succession, they don’t happen simultaneously. First, he swings the bat. After that, the ball soars past the fence. You have some options on how to fix this and make the cause and effect nature of the action clear:
He swung the bat and the ball soared past the rickety wooden fence.
He swung the bat. The ball soared past the rickety wooden fence.
Plenty of sentences with this construction can work. Just make sure the actions happen at the same time.
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Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She
was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for
Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University,
University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a
visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Send your questions on the craft of creative writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. All of Brandi's other Ask The Writer columns are available to registered users.