Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nasty, Dirty Participial Phrases



I've been writing for many years. In the beginning I made the usual mistakes: use of the word "that", passive voice, telling not showing, etc. I still make mistakes, but, as you all know, the art of writing is a never-ending learning process.

One mistake that's been glaring to me lately is the over use of "as" clauses and beginning sentences with "ing" words.

For example, "Stepping over the dead body, Gina tripped." or "Gina tripped as she stepped over the dead body." Why not just say, "Gina tripped over the dead body."?

These types of phrases are called participials. A participial is a verb form that can also stand as a noun or adjective. Renni Browne and Dave King, who wrote Self-Editing for Fiction Writers ascribe the overuse of "ing" words to hack writers and profess that “awareness of them when revising will help your work look like that of a professional rather than an amateur” (156)

Remi and Browne also vilify the “as” clause as a tool of the hack writer, which might be one of your first instincts when revising your ings. This is what I did in the example above. I got rid of "stepping", but then changed it to "as she stepped". Both are weak and wordy.

So next time you're editing pay attention to your sentences. If you're beginning too many with "ing" words, or have too many "as" clauses, change them. You're writing will be much stronger because of it.

For more technical and smart-sounding information about participles, go here.

1 comment:

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

Guilty! I'm working on it though.