Wednesday, April 18, 2012

As, -ing & Sophisticated Writing

We all know to remove as many adverbs as possible when we write, but what about sentences beginning with 'as' or 'ing' words? Removing as many of these as possible can raise you prose up a notch.

As she pulled off her gloves...
Pulling off her gloves...

They are not bad, ungrammatical sentence structures, but can show a lack of sophistication in your writing (to quote Browne and King in 'Self-Editing For Fiction Writers'). Having a few scattered about your book is not a problem but several per page is.

In the above example, 'She pulled off her gloves' is a good substitute and keeps the prose simple and well defined.

To add a bit of colour you can describe how the gloves were pulled off. 'She pulled off her gloves nearly ripping the seam as she did.' Note that using 'as' in the middle of a sentence (or an 'ing' word) is fine.

After that bit of editing, how about replacing adverbs with verbs. Changing the sentence above to 'She pulled off her gloves and slammed them on the hall table.' gives more action and shows her mood.

In short, be creative while keeping it simple.

See you on Friday.


Chloe said...

I totally agree. The only thing I find though is that you can end up with several sentences starting with 'he', 'she' or a name etc. to avoid using these more clumsy phrases. And that can get very monotonous. Starting with -ing words really grates with me though. Occasionally I'll do it without thinking but always wince when I come to editing later.. Or perhaps that should be: Editing later, I always wince. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Oh thanks Martin. Will have another scout for these in my work.

Agree with Chloe too! If -ing words come first, then it's kind of putting the cart before the horse.

Martin Willoughby said...

Chloe: It is difficult to find alternatives, but once we get into the habit, we'll get used to them. It's someting I will look out for in my reading.

Freya: Editing is never finished.

Ruth Josse said...

This is too true. But I also agree with Chloe that starting sentences with too many He's and She's can be a problem as well. There's a fine balance to be found. Like with many writing practices.

Martin Willoughby said...

Ruth: You're right, it is to do with balance, but there are more options than he/she, as ,-ing. There's also where, when, how etc.