TO GERUND OR NOT TO GERUND

Some of my editing clients have loved starting sentences with gerunds, or words ending in “ing.” This is not terrible in itself, but as it is in writing as in everything else, balance is important.  And sometimes starting a sentence with a gerund phrase just doesn’t make sense. Consider these two examples:

  • Walking out the door, she spat expletives about his behavior.
  • Driving into the garage, I pressed the button to close the garage door.

A good way to test if a sentence is beginning with a gerund well is to think about the word “while.” If you can put “while” in front of the sentence and it’s logical, the gerund is fine. If, instead, the sentence becomes nonsensical because whatever is in the second clause would have logically taken place before, after, or separate from the first clause, the gerund needs to go.

In our above examples, the first gerund works because it’s logical for someone to be swearing while walking. In the second example, if you push the button to close the garage while driving into the garage, you’re likely to damage your garage door, vehicle, or both.

Let me reiterate, though, that balance is important. Even if your gerund-beginning sentences make sense, your reader is still going to be bothered with repeating them too much. Balance.

If you have any examples of bad gerund-beginning sentences you’ve come across, I’d love to see them. Just put them in the comments section (anonymously, please – no naming names.)

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