Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for "ing" words

by Kim Van Sickler

Weak words. You know the ones I mean. Those participles paired with "to be" verbs: were watching, was visiting, is talking, am listening, are going.

In my rough drafts, these phrases spring up like dandelions.

My job is to prune away, so that passive phrases like these disappear. That often means I need to rewrite my passages to show instead of tell. (Hint, hint.)

Slow down. Show the scene. Make it pop.

That Find feature in Word is a perfect way to track down these weak clauses. But it's up to us writers to rewrite "ing" sentences so they blossom.


  1. Yes, it's great to get rid of these words when you can. Though I write in third person limited and find that sometimes they're needed.

  2. Hi- popping in from the A-Z. Loving the Swagger. New follower.

  3. These pop up in my writing as well. A lot of times I don't even realize it until I go through a edit. I never thought of using the find feature for locating ing words, great tip!

  4. My problem as my J post will show is just slipping in just at odd times.

  5. This is another one I've been thinking about recently. Yeah, I suppose it's telling what someone is doing, rather than showing it. Great tip!

  6. I think realizing the problem is the first step. But, really during a first draft, I'm not worried about it, it's during the edit I see a crop of ings all over the place.

    Thanks for the reminder. Visiting from the A to Z.

  7. Every once in a while I'll go on an "ing"-word spree and there will be sentence after sentence of them. Great tips!

  8. Great post and great tips. Showing rather than telling is something I always have to focus on in my writing. Lucky for the art of revising.

    Have fun with a-z.

  9. Ouch... great post. Once, I edited a sheriff investigator's true crime novel, and because (I guess) they have to be so objective until the evidence points conclusively to the right suspect, he WROTE entirely in passive voice (the door knob was dusted for prints). I wanted to pull out all my hair.

    Thanks for the reminder. haha! ;)

    Dana at Waiter, drink please!

  10. Am I right that these are called gerunds? Or is that something else? Will have to check my writing to see how I score with them....

    1. Ah, you remember some high school English! Only some of them. Verbs ending in "ing" that are used as nouns are called gerunds. But not all of those others.