Sunday, December 28, 2008

Those Dreaded ING Words

With Happy Holiday Wishes from Earl Staggs


I cringe. I shudder. I gnash. I itch in hard-to-reach places. I
scratch.

Still, they come.

I open a book or magazine, and there they are.

...the ING sentences!!!

I suspect some writers use them as a variation in sentence structure.
There's nothing wrong with deviating from standard subject-verb-predicate
arrangement here and there to break the monotony. Variety, after all,
makes life -- and reading -- more interesting. I know that. I accept
it. I do it myself. I can live with it. Most of the time.

But then I read something like this:

"Pulling on her new red sweater, Mary drove downtown."

. . .cringe...shudder...gnash...itch...scratch. . .

In that construction, the two actions (pulling and driving) take place simultaneously and concurrently. Poor Mary. I envision her struggling into her sweater and driving at the same time -- all the way downtown. I hope she makes it to work without a major traffic accident.

If the author had said:

"After pulling on her new red sweater, Mary drove downtown."

or, even more simply:

"Mary pulled on her new red sweater and drove downtown."

Not only would Mary arrive safely at work, look terrific in that sweater
and have a fine day, but I'd be spared a lot of scratch marks.

But no! In the very next paragraph, I read:

"Applying a fresh coat of makeup, Mary stood and gave her speech."

. . .cringe...shudder...gnash...itch...scratch. . .

I'm sure what Mary had to say was worthwhile, but surely the audience
was distracted by the makeover she gave herself as she talked.

Not all ING sentences bring on strange bodily reactions here. This one
doesn’t:

"Gripping the knife in both hands, Mary slashed the ugly red sweater
nineteen times."

The gripping and slashing co-exist in time just fine. (But I pity the
dumb putz who gave her that stupid sweater.)

Here's another ING sentence that works fine because the two actions
(realizing and blushing) can occur at the same time:

"Realizing she had blundered into the wrong meeting, Mary blushed
as red as her sweater."

While I feel sorry for poor dear Mary for the terrible day she's having,
mine is better now that my peeve has been expounded, my rant has been
rendered.

Hoping what I've said makes sense and slipping into my slightly used and
somewhat mutilated red sweater, I await any comments anyone might care to
make.

Earl Staggs

9 comments:

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Just wondering why you hate the red sweater so much.

Mark said...

Rising to the occasion, Earl skewers another grammar pest.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

and flings it, smoking, along with the red sweater into the nearest flaming grill.

Kevin
(who doesn't have a picture but does have an antholgy out now)

Ben Small said...

Now every time I use an "ing" I will look over my shoulder to see if Earl is on watch. See. I'm in "ing" rehab. Thanks, Doc... :<)

rhubarb said...

Argh, oh yes. But the grammatical errors do not end there. The American 'couple' as in "She swiped a couple cards from the deck". It's a couple OF, people. OF, OF, OF!

OK, I will sit down now....

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Some editors and publishers are dropping the "of" because they believe it is implied and therefore does not have to be spelled out for the reader.

Don't agree with it.

By the way, it isn't just an American thing--seeing it happen with publishers out of England as well.

grandillusions said...

Kevin, I'll have to keep an eye out for that, when reading English/UK authors. My husband chuckles at me telling the books off...

Helen Ginger said...

I gave Mary that red sweater and here she is slashing, tugging, and mutilating it. See if she gets another gift from me, Helen said, eating a persimmon and pasting cut-out letters onto a thank you card.

Morgan Mandel said...

That red sweater sentence kind of reminds me of people driving while talking on the cell phone, but those actions do kind of happen concurrently, but annoy me.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://www.morganmandel.com