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Thread: Starting sentences with words ending in "ing"

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Chrisla's Avatar
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    Starting sentences with words ending in "ing"

    I have noticed in some critiques that writers are advised not to start many sentences with words that end in "ing."

    What's wrong with "Thinking I could save some time, I took the short cut. . ." or "Golfing is his favorite pasttime."?

    Can somebody clarify for me? I've never heard this rule before.

  2. #2
    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    I think you are talking about starting a sentence off with a gerund, (a verb ending in ing or ed, acting in place of a noun.) Not to be confused with a participle...

    Personally, I see nothing wrong, provided you structure the sentence so the gerund has a possessive subject, and done sparingly In your examples...

    Thinking I could save some time, I took the short cut home. This is in first person so the "I" following thinking is the possessive subject that is doing the thinking. If I remember correctly

    Now had you said... Thinking to save time, I took the short cut home. while it sounds the same, there is no possessive subject before the comma, so who was thinking?

    And even that can be argued and thus a reason gerunds opening a sentence are not favored in most cases to start a sentence, because they are improperly used. Over use, even properly also sort of sounds like a list of actions and thus becomes boring.

    Of course, I could be wrong about all of this too, as its been a very long time, but hell, I might open the discussion... lol.
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    Why is a raven like a writing desk? The Lonely One's Avatar
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    Hoping I could answer the question, I entered some text. Editing my post, I continued to enter text. Feeling that this could get annoying if overused, I varied my sentence rhythm.
    WORDS!


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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Chrisla's Avatar
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    Okay, I think I get the distinction. I sometimes use these words to begin a sentence simply to avoid another beginning with "I". In future, I'll double-check to make sure I have a subject.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    The grimflits are out to get me Matera the Mad's Avatar
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    Ing-ing too much is the root of all dangling participles
    Inspiration can be as destructive as any other form of fire.

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    First, don’t open a sentence with an -ing phrase unless the action occurring in that phrase happens at the same time as the action in the main part of the sentence (or unless you’ve included a word like “after” to clarify the timing). The following sentences don’t work:

    Unlocking the door, she left the room.

    Walking toward him, she placed her hand along his cheek.

    Do you see why? You can’t unlock the door and leave the room at the same time, and it’s highly unlikely that you would be placing your hand on someone’s cheek while walking toward them. Such sentences need to be reworded.

    Also, when you start a sentence with a participial phrase, that phrase needs to modify the subject of the main clause. This sentence is also incorrect:

    Nearing unconsciousness again, his head slumped forward.

    It really isn’t his head that’s nearly unconscious. To make this correct, you’d need to rephrase to say something along the lines of “He neared unconsciousness again, and his head slumped forward.”

    I hope this helps someone!

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW bonitakale's Avatar
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    Re-read what scigars said-- it's very clear, and those are the two problems you have to look out for. Either of them can slip up on you because your own picture of what's happening takes over your brain, and you don't realize you've described something different.

  8. #8
    Worst song played on ugliest guitar Libbie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matera the Mad View Post
    Ing-ing too much is the root of all dangling participles
    I've always thought "dangling participle" would be a good euphemism. For -- you know -- naughty bits. Or a good band name.

    Man, I have so much to learn about grammar. I'm happy that I seem to have absorbed most of its finer points just by paying attention to what I read, but I have no idea what a dangling participle is, nor have I ever heard anybody say you shouldn't start or end a sentence with an -ing verb. These threads are so informative. Just wanted to share.

  9. #9
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisla View Post
    Okay, I think I get the distinction. I sometimes use these words to begin a sentence simply to avoid another beginning with "I".
    That's exactly why they make bad openings; because they sound so forced. It's basically just switching clauses around.

  10. #10
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Ice View Post
    That's exactly why they make bad openings; because they sound so forced. It's basically just switching clauses around.
    Exactly. To use participial clause just to avoid using "I" is the wrong reason. It's not organic. There are better ways to write than simply shifting the sentences around. Not to mention it creates too many opportunities for dangling participles or wrong usage (e.g. when the actions are not simultaneous -- the "opening the door, I left the room" type of errors).
    Last edited by maestrowork; 01-24-2010 at 11:33 PM.

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  11. #11
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisla View Post
    Okay, I think I get the distinction. I sometimes use these words to begin a sentence simply to avoid another beginning with "I".
    This in itself is a symptom of a problem: overusing "I". That topic has been discussed on numerous other threads here. But, as has been noted, use of leading participial phrases to compensate for that doesn't really help.

    caw

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Chrisla's Avatar
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    Checked out the threads. Slapped forehead, said "duh!" and on my way to find all my "ing" endings and "I" words. Thanks, everybody.

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