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Kathl33n
01-20-2015, 03:32 AM
For example: "Staring at the ignition, I started up my car."

What is the rule on this, and can someone point me to it? I've always been told by crit partners not to use an -ing verb at the beginning of a sentence, but I'm having trouble explaining it to someone else (as to why not to do it).

Her work is in past tense, but she is using -ing words to start sentences, just like the one above.

Any links are appreciated.

Thanks so much.

thothguard51
01-20-2015, 03:38 AM
It's a gerund, a verb acting like a noun.

Look up the rules on gerunds and then remember, not all rules are set in stone...

Evan Henry
01-20-2015, 03:39 AM
There's nothing grammatically wrong with it, but it's easy to overdo and often sounds awkward if used too much. In writing, too much of anything is bad.

stormie
01-20-2015, 03:42 AM
Look up the rules on gerunds and then remember, not all rules are set in stone...

Also, many times those rules, taught in elementary school, were for formal essays or letters. Know your rules, then know when you can break them.

thothguard51
01-20-2015, 03:56 AM
I might also add that some new writers will use this form of gerund to make a sentence active. Not always...

Example,

He looked down the well shaft and was greeted by darkness.

Vs...

Looking down the well shaft, darkness greeted him.

But gerunds can cause tense issues if one is not careful...

Kathl33n
01-20-2015, 04:02 AM
Ok, thank you thothguard51.

Do you guys agree or disagree with this link?

http://aldora89.tumblr.com/post/36096974674/on-beginning-sentences-with-gerunds-stop-for-the

Ken
01-20-2015, 04:02 AM
But gerunds can cause tense issues if one is not careful...

Illogicality too. E.g. Licking the lollipop Sally exclaimed, "Yummy!" (Doing both these things, simultaneously, would be tough, which may be a tense issue as well?)

thothguard51
01-20-2015, 04:05 AM
But Sally is talented...

morngnstar
01-20-2015, 04:05 AM
Nothing wrong with your sentence, although it might be better to just say it directly: "I stared at the ignition, and started my car." I'm not really sure why we need to know you're staring at the ignition, anyway.

That structure implies that the actions are simultaneous and the subject is the same, so it's misused if those things are not true. E.g.

Picking up a pencil, he wrote a poem.
Staring at the sky, a meteor appeared.

thothguard51
01-20-2015, 04:07 AM
Ok, thank you thothguard51.

Do you guys agree or disagree with this link?

http://aldora89.tumblr.com/post/36096974674/on-beginning-sentences-with-gerunds-stop-for-the


Over using anything can be distracting...

Marlys
01-20-2015, 04:14 AM
Also, make sure that the subject of your gerund phrase is the subject of the sentence, or you'll end up with a misplaced modifier. The OP's original example is fine in this respect:

Staring at the ignition, I started my car. Yup. The same agent is both staring and starting.

A couple of others posted later in the thread are not fine:

Staring at the sky, a meteor appeared. Nope. As written, the meteor is staring at the sky.

Looking down the well shaft, darkness greeted him. Also nope. The darkness is not looking down the well.

I'm wondering if it was the potential for misplaced modifiers that made your crit group wary of gerund phrases in general?

Ken
01-20-2015, 04:14 AM
... lol.

Kathl33n
01-20-2015, 04:23 AM
http://www.writing-world.com/dawn/gerunds.shtml

I think I've found my link. Thanks everyone.

thothguard51
01-20-2015, 04:32 AM
A much better resource...

blacbird
01-20-2015, 04:44 AM
It's a gerund, a verb acting like a noun.

Look up the rules on gerunds and then remember, not all rules are set in stone...

The example is not a gerund. It's a participle, and that initial part of the sentence is a participial phrase. One of the problems that can and often do arise with participial phrases is that they imply either continuity or simultaneity of action, but get misused in situations where a sequence of individual actions is intended.

For the word "staring" to be used as a gerund, you need a sentence like "Staring is an impolite thing to do." The noun form is followed with a verb. The given example doesn't do this.

caw

Chase
01-20-2015, 05:00 AM
Kath, both of your links refer to something which is not a rule of grammar. They voice pet peeves, negative opinions.

Good writers always have and always will employ gerund and participial phrases to begin sentences. To remove them completely from a toolbox is to unnecessarily deprive writers and readers of at least one form of sentence variety.

Appropriate and limited use are key.

Having said that, I was a longtime English teacher and kept a list of the funnier misplaced modifiers in essays. The best coming to mind:

"Taking off from the Chinook airfield, the sun rose redly in the east." :Sun: Talk about your hot airplanes! :D

Unimportant
01-20-2015, 06:08 AM
For example: "Staring at the ignition, I started up my car."

What is the rule on this, and can someone point me to it? I've always been told by crit partners not to use an -ing verb at the beginning of a sentence, but I'm having trouble explaining it to someone else (as to why not to do it).

Her work is in past tense, but she is using -ing words to start sentences, just like the one above.

Any links are appreciated.

Thanks so much.
Of course you can do it. But it's one of those things that is commonly done wrong (much like its vs it's) so it gets a lot of flak.

First, the "verbing, subject verbed" construction means that both verb/actions are occuring simultaneously. Too often, writers screw that up, because they mean the actions to be sequential (e.g., "Putting on my shoes, I ran down the stairs").

Second, the 'verbing' is a dependent clause that applies tothe subject directly after the comma. Too often, writers screw that up (not just with a 'verbing' dependent clause, but any clause; e.g., "Screaming and hurling crockery, I heard the neighbours having an almighty domestic").

Sage
01-20-2015, 06:28 AM
Of course you can do it. But it's one of those things that is commonly done wrong (much like its vs it's) so it gets a lot of flak.

First, the "verbing, subject verbed" construction means that both verb/actions are occuring simultaneously. Too often, writers screw that up, because they mean the actions to be sequential (e.g., "Putting on my shoes, I ran down the stairs").

Second, the 'verbing' is a dependent clause that applies tothe subject directly after the comma. Too often, writers screw that up (not just with a 'verbing' dependent clause, but any clause; e.g., "Screaming and hurling crockery, I heard the neighbours having an almighty domestic").

This. 100%.

blacbird
01-20-2015, 10:48 AM
"Putting on my shoes, I ran down the stairs"

I've tried this. On the basis of results, I do not recommend that others do.

caw

BethS
01-20-2015, 05:56 PM
For example: "Staring at the ignition, I started up my car."

What is the rule on this, and can someone point me to it? I've always been told by crit partners not to use an -ing verb at the beginning of a sentence, but I'm having trouble explaining it to someone else (as to why not to do it).


The problem with it is that it can lead to 1) misplaced modifiers (Swimming out from the shore, the water grew cold and rough); or 2) logical impossibilities (Opening the gate, I knocked on the door.); or 3) The writer is trying to put one of a series of sequential actions into the opening modifier, and ends up with a mess. (Instead of this: "I pulled on my suit, ran for the shore, and splashed through the waves"; it's this: "Pulling on my suit, I ran for the shore and splashed through the waves." And note that that is also an example of #2.

If you open with a modifying phrase, make sure it really does support and modify the main sentence.

BethS
01-20-2015, 06:04 PM
Ok, thank you thothguard51.

Do you guys agree or disagree with this link?

http://aldora89.tumblr.com/post/36096974674/on-beginning-sentences-with-gerunds-stop-for-the

Yes, except for one thing.

These are not gerunds we're discussing. They're participle phrases.

Read this (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/627/). No better than site than Purdue OWL for clear explanations of all things grammatical.

Usher
01-20-2015, 06:12 PM
For example: "Staring at the ignition, I started up my car."
.

I tend to work it can I write:

I stared at the ignition and started the car

Or would

I stared at the ignition and THEN started the car.

If you can do both actions together then the --ing is appropriate. If you can't then it isn't.

However, using any form of a sentence too often gets repetitive and messes with the flow of the writing.

Kylabelle
01-20-2015, 07:20 PM
Writing well is rarely a matter of following rules.

:D

ironmikezero
01-20-2015, 11:02 PM
Staring at the ignition and starting the car is a fun exercise in telekinesis.

I would be impressed.

Breaking the rules can be fun, too... but it doesn't always impress.

KTC
01-20-2015, 11:06 PM
It's a gerund, a verb acting like a noun.

Look up the rules on gerunds and then remember, not all rules are set in stone...

Pretty much what I would have said. I familiarize myself with the rules and then decide on a case by case basis whether or not I want to flaunt them or not. It's up to you. I would say there are no absolutes. Either WORKS or DOESN'T WORK.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2015, 12:07 AM
It doesn't work. Staring at the ignition won't start the car unless you have telekinetic powers. Such sentences almost never make sense.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2015, 12:09 AM
Writing well is rarely a matter of following rules.

:D

Writing well is seldom a matter of breaking the rules, either. If you do break a rule, you'd darned sure better know the rule inside out, and have a good reason for breaking it. Otherwise, you won't be writing well.

Chase
01-21-2015, 02:03 AM
Writing well is rarely a matter of following rules.


Staring at the ignition and starting the car is a fun exercise in telekinesis. I would be impressed.


Good one, Mike :D


Breaking the rules can be fun, too...


I familiarize myself with the rules and then decide on a case by case basis whether or not I want to flaunt them or not.

Okay, I give up in the face of all you scholars. Not beginning a sentence with an "ing" word is a rule . . . but so I can break, bend, and otherwise mutilate it, as well, please cite the grammar authority. :ty:

Kylabelle
01-21-2015, 02:07 AM
Writing well is seldom a matter of breaking the rules, either. If you do break a rule, you'd darned sure better know the rule inside out, and have a good reason for breaking it. Otherwise, you won't be writing well.

Of course. I was primarily using that sentence as an illustration of starting a sentence with an -ing word. :D

Kylabelle
01-21-2015, 02:07 AM
Okay, I give up in the face of all you scholars. Not beginning a sentence with an "ing" word is a rule . . . but so I can break, bend, and otherwise mutilate it, as well, please cite the grammar authority. :ty:

Nah, it's not a rule.

:D

blacbird
01-21-2015, 02:24 AM
This entire thread is a good example of why every writer needs to recognize three things:

1. What you mean to say.
2. What you think you said.
3. What you actually said.

You really want those to converge. And you need to develop the ability to recognize when they differ.

caw

morngnstar
01-21-2015, 02:53 AM
It doesn't work. Staring at the ignition won't start the car unless you have telekinetic powers. Such sentences almost never make sense.

I don't think this kind of construction implies causation. "Driving to work, he reminisced about his old girlfriend." I interpret the original example to mean he's staring at the ignition and also, though not mentioned explicitly, he turns the key in it.

thothguard51
01-21-2015, 02:59 AM
The ignition is a series of wires, relays, and switches. So what exactly was he looking at?

zarada
01-21-2015, 03:13 AM
i could never figure out why someone would want to start out their story that way. there's so much to worry about getting right in the first sentence -- like: introducing your MC properly, defining a setting, making an impression on your reader? why go f&*# it up from the get-go with a fabricated, convoluted and fuzzy string of words starting with *ing?

(i'm feeling rather opinionated tonight. does it show?)

Unimportant
01-21-2015, 03:50 AM
i could never figure out why someone would want to start out their story that way. there's so much to worry about getting right in the first sentence -- like: introducing your MC properly, defining a setting, making an impression on your reader? why go f&*# it up from the get-go with a fabricated, convoluted and fuzzy string of words starting with *ing?

(i'm feeling rather opinionated tonight. does it show?)
Dunno. It depends a lot on voice.

Killing my mother turned out not to be such a great idea after all.

As an opener, that'd work for me ...-ings be damned :D

morngnstar
01-21-2015, 06:04 AM
The ignition is a series of wires, relays, and switches. So what exactly was he looking at?

The ignition switch, which is what you stick the key in.

blacbird
01-21-2015, 06:46 AM
Dunno. It depends a lot on voice.

Killing my mother turned out not to be such a great idea after all.


Ah, but that's not the same grammatical construction as the original example. What's quoted above actually is a gerund, not a participle. The difference between a gerund and a participle, and their uses, isn't all that difficult to comprehend, and is something any good writer should know.

caw

thothguard51
01-21-2015, 07:33 AM
The ignition switch, which is what you stick the key in.

How is the reader to know THAT is what he was staring at?

I know its just an example, but the writer still needs to be a little more specific of the subject...

morngnstar
01-21-2015, 07:47 AM
How is the reader to know THAT is what he was staring at?

I know its just an example, but the writer still needs to be a little more specific of the subject...

Because as you said, the other meaning is under the hood, and normally can't be looked at. "Ignition" for where you stick the key is a common usage. Like saying "press the gas" for the accelerator pedal. This is getting off-topic. Confusion about the meaning of the word ignition has nothing to do with whether the grammatical construct works.

BethS
01-21-2015, 01:47 PM
Not beginning a sentence with an "ing" word is a rule

There is no such rule.

There are just writers who do it habitually and/or badly.

Brutal Mustang
01-21-2015, 02:18 PM
There are just writers who do it habitually and/or badly.

Yep. Moreover, I find little troubles swirl around -ing words. Eight times out of ten, the writing isn't as robust as it could be. In fact, when I'm editing, I run a 'ing' search in Word, and carefully inspect sentences containing such words. Years ago, I averaged twenty -ing words a page; today I'm averaging one or two, if that.

Chase
01-21-2015, 09:21 PM
There is no such rule.

:ty:, Beth. I agree. It's what I've been saying in this entire thread (while it fell on too many deaf ears):D

Should I have posted:sarcasm before "Not beginning a sentence with an "ing" word is a rule . . ."?

Rufus Coppertop
01-23-2015, 04:10 PM
Ok, thank you thothguard51.

Do you guys agree or disagree with this link?

http://aldora89.tumblr.com/post/36096974674/on-beginning-sentences-with-gerunds-stop-for-the
Giving advice about writing while sowing confusion about basic grammar is a bit tacky.

The perpetrator should do some basic research and find out the difference between participles and gerunds before spouting rules about writing.

On the other hand, he/she's correct IMHO that overuse of what she assumes are gerunds to begin sentences is not good.

guttersquid
01-23-2015, 10:14 PM
Do you guys agree or disagree with this link?

http://aldora89.tumblr.com/post/36096974674/on-beginning-sentences-with-gerunds-stop-for-the

It takes a lot of nerve to give writing advice when you don't know the difference between a gerund and a participle phrase, and you begin your article with a badly punctuated sentence.

"Today’s thrilling topic is annoying, misplaced gerunds!"

Both the comma and exclamation point are misused.

blacbird
01-24-2015, 09:17 AM
Do you guys agree or disagree with this link?

Godawful. Utterly lacking in grammatical knowledge. Not knowing the difference between a gerund and a participle is akin to not knowing the difference between a noun and a verb.

caw

morngnstar
01-26-2015, 05:24 AM
I admit I am a rehabilitated participial phrase offender. Is this okay? "She paced back and forth under the awning over the entrance, gradually expanding her territory until she was walking the entire length of the block." Obviously once she's walking the entire length of the block, she's no longer under the awning at all times, so it's not completely simultaneous. But this doesn't seem glaringly wrong to me.

blacbird
01-26-2015, 06:54 AM
I admit I am a rehabilitated participial phrase offender. Is this okay? "She paced back and forth under the awning over the entrance, gradually expanding her territory until she was walking the entire length of the block." Obviously once she's walking the entire length of the block, she's no longer under the awning at all times, so it's not completely simultaneous. But this doesn't seem glaringly wrong to me.

But it is. And because of that the sentence is awkward and feels wordy. The action you want to describe is this: "She paced back and forth under the awning over the entrance. Then she left there, and walked the entire length of the block."

She didn't "gradually expand her territory." She did one thing, then she did something else. This vividly illustrates one of the biggest problems in the misuse of participial phrases. Far too often writers succumb to the temptation to join what should be two sentences into one, via the use of a participial phrase that fogs up the intended meaning. Yeah, we readers can interpret it, but why not be more precise and clear?

Now, there are constructions in which the use of a participial phrase correctly and appropriately contributes to the narration. But your example isn't one of those.

caw