Wednesday, September 29, 2010

-ing infestation

First, get on over to Kelly's (Kelly's Compositions) She is holding a great contest. Ends October 10th.

Well, I'm looking for an exterminator. Sure I have stink bugs climbing on my screens, but I also have something that is worse, words ending in "-ing". They are complete pests. Just like the dreaded stink bug-- They come out of no where and place themselves hidden until they decide to fly off the page to scare the heck out of the person reading it.

Oh "-ing" words what am I to do with you?

This is another bad habit of mine and pointed out to me by my editor/ critiquer at the conference. I have also had some other critiquers point this out. My first chapter was, in fact, infested with these buggers. Also, the little fly known as "as" appeared as well. **Take a look at that last sentance--I can't get away from them.

So, why is this bad?
1.  Even though the sentence may be gramatically correct, putting an -ing word or "as" at the beginning of a sentence will make the action seem unimportant.

2. It may also make an action seem impossible. Example: Running into the house, I shut off the stove. You were running but were able to shut off the stove at the same time?

 Words ending in "ing" and the word "as" weaken your writing. Professionals look for this which indicates "amateur" writing.

How do we fix it?
First, search it out. Read your writing out loud or use the "find" feature in Word. This has shown me plenty of times how I repeat myself.

Second, exterminating it. Getting rid of it can be more difficult. This is what I'm working on.

 For example: Picking up the bottle, I read the label. Now, I guess you could read the label as your picking up the bottle but that seems like a lot of action happening at the same time.

Possible fix- After picking up the bottle, I read the label.

Even better-I picked up the bottle and read the label. To the point and the action is clear.

Another example--This is directly from Les Edgerton. I should add-- this is a much better example than mine.

Ripping off several large, dripping hunks of burrito, she pulled a chair up to the kitchen table and took a large bite. As she chewed, she wondered who she was maddest at. James, she decided.

The fix--

She pulled up a chair to the kitchen table and took a large bite of the burrito she'd found behind the milk and orange juice bottles. Who was she maddest at? Probably James.

Seems simple, but it takes practice.  Yes, I said practice. Also note, the -ing word can be kind of hidden if you put in the middle of the sentence. Which will make it a little stronger. Just don't do it on every line. There are instances where these words are necessary. Just don't put them at the beginning of the sentence.

Thanks to Les Edgerton for the tips and examples. (don't forget he wrote a great book called, Hooked. I've used it and its great for writing your first chapters.)

Now I must go grab some Raid and kick some -ing/as butt.

Happy writing! Friday is Fun facts day (plus some catch up stuff) and I will announce a date for the next Writing the Next Line. I apologize for all the crazy sizes. When I cut and paste it does this. Crazy blogger!


  1. Great post and thanks for writing out the examples! I have problems with
    -ing words and with "as" (that's probably my biggest fault...oh wait, I can't forget the word "was" either!).

  2. Oy, I am BAD at using -ing words. I just read through a chapter yesterday and had to try and fix a bazillion.

    Super great post Christine!! But did you have to put a picture of a nasty little bug up there? ;) *BIGshudder*

  3. i did a post on this last wednesday (it was featured on stina's cool links friday). "ing" words (aka Gerunds) can really make our writing passive, too. you don't have to eliminate them altogether, because sometimes they're a sylistic choice. but you also don't want to be running and turning on the faucet at the same time ;)

  4. Sigh...guilty! This is definitely a problem area for me, but I've tried to at least be conscientious of the two actions at once thing.

    Great post!

  5. I've gotten past the -ing stink, but now I'm finding 'as' all over the place. Although not at the beginning of the sentence so I think I'm good. Yes, revsions, suck.

  6. I critted one entry last week during the MSFV contest in which the first paragraph was overloaded with -ing verbs. It seriously weakened the writing.

    I'm still guilty, but I've cut them way down. Once you analyze your work for them, you realize just how unnecessary they are. I think a lot of times we use them for sentence variation.

  7. I'm guilty of the "-ing" stink words at the beginning of sentences. Too frequently. I've replaced "as". Unfortunately, I've replaced it with "although". Not good either.

    I'm still working the amateur writer out of me. Grrr, is it ever taking toooo long.

    Thanks for the tip back to Les' blog, and the book Hooked. I need to brush up on some writing lessons.


  8. Great, informative post, Christine! You've addressed issues and offered examples of how to fix them. This will be helpful to many writers

  9. That bug picture looks nasty! But I agree with everything else. I tend to lean toward the -ing words and have to go back and fix them later.

  10. Oh, that stink bug. We are infested with them too!

    As for the other infestation, repeated re-reading, looking for ways to shorten and simplify sentences will take care of many of those problems.

    And definitely read your work out loud to yourself. That's often the only way I realize that I have repeated words too many times in a paragraph or on a page -- I hear that echo!

  11. I probably used a few, but what I had to really go back and axe were the 'ly' words. (And looking at the sentence I just wrote, you can see why!)

  12. Lots of good information in this post! Thanks for the great reminders, sometimes I let myself slip into the -ing thing.

  13. I'm a total "as" addict! I'm currently exterminating as well, but it's easier said than done. One of my brilliant critiquers actually pointed me to your post! Thanks for sharing...that "as" habit of mine is HARD to eradicate!

  14. haha, gotta love (or hate!) those -ing words! I'm never done trying to ferret those darn things out.

  15. I can avoid the '-ing' habit but like Donna, I'm also doing a lot of 'as' in my writing! Arrrrghh. I've got to keep away from it. Delete. Delete. Thanks for the advice, Christine!

    BTW, I've got an award for you on my blog :)

  16. Thanks for the great information. It is always great to be reminded of things to avoid.