Writer’s Wednesday: Take It Easy On The “Ing’s”

First, (POSSIBLE) answers to last week’s exercise of Lesson #2, Backload your sentences:

1) To me the bit about the child was most important: DUE TO A 9-1-1 CALL, FIREMEN QUICKLY ARRIVED AT 223 TALLEY TRACE TO RESCUE A CHILD STUCK IN A RAIN CULVERT.

2) The lawyer’s reaction needed to be positioned at the end: AFTER THE PROSECUTION DISCREDITED THE STAR WITNESS, THE DUMBFOUNDED DEFENSE LAWYER WAS UNABLE TO FINISH HIS CLOSING ARGUMENT.

**Brownie points to all who tried!**

Today, here’s a short story illustrating Lesson #3, Take it easy on the “ing’s.”

 A reporter was summoned by the editor of the newspaper where he worked. “There’s a problem with your story,” he told the reporter, “but I haven’t quite figured out yet.”

He studied it a bit more, red pencil in hand. Finally, he relaxed and began circling words. “Oh, that’s what it is. You have too many ‘ing’s.’”

“What?”

The editor read aloud the first sentence. “Compromising very little, the county commissioners abandoned all hope of agreeing on the school redistricting issue Monday night.”

Three words were circled: “Compromising,” “agreeing,” and “redistricting.”

He further explained. “The first two are the present participle verb tense. When you use several participles in a row, you weaken the structure of the sentence and its impact. Rewrite this sentence and eliminate most, if not all of the ‘ing’s’.”

The reporter scratched his head. “The word ‘redistricting’ is a gerund, a verb form used in place of a noun. Do you want me to get rid of it too?”

“If you can come up with a better noun to substitute, then do it.”

The reporter rewrote the sentence in the margin. The county commissioners compromised little Monday night and abandoned all hope for agreement on the school redistricting issue.”

The reporter shrugged. “I couldn’t come up with a better noun for ‘redistricting.’”

“One ‘ing’ in a sentence is better than three any day,” said the editor. “I’ll take it.”

This suggestion (and I would not call it a writing rule but a preference) is a particular bugaboo of mine. I love introductory participial phrases (those inserted at the beginning of a sentence) and have to cull as many as I can when I edit. It’s hard to kill your darlings, but sometimes you must. . .

SO. . . Lesson #3: Watch out for those worrisome ‘ing’s.” Rewrite to eliminate as many of these words as you can. Your writing will be stronger because of it!

Next week, Lesson #4:  The Long and Short of It.

Happy writing!

Lookin’ up,

 

 

 

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