editing / writers tips

Writers Tip #5: Beware the gerund

When you read your story, does it sound off? Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong?

Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. I’ll point them out. They’ll come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments. Add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

A gerund is a verb that ends in -ing and functions as a noun.

  • learning
  • running
  • asking

Too many gerunds make your writing passive. You take a wonderful verb, attach it to the passive is or was and water down the energy of your action. Here’s how to fix it:

  • Wrong: He was learning how to ice skate
  • Right: He learned how to ice skate, or He took ice skating classes
  • Wrong: He was looking out the window
  • Right: He looked out the window
  • Wrong: He was running down the street
  • Right: He ran down the street
  • Wrong: He was asking where the book store was
  • Right: He asked where the book store was

All gerunds aren’t bad or I would have said: Delete the gerund. Just watch them.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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15 thoughts on “Writers Tip #5: Beware the gerund

  1. Pingback: Top 10 (Tech) Tips for Writers in 2017 | WordDreams...

  2. More great advice to help uncover passive writing. I think it’s good to watch out for gerunds at the start of a sentence, since they are sometimes confusing (and I think are a bit weak). “Running to the bus, Jane called out to Sam.” This should mean Jane was running, but the reader may be confused.

    Liked by 2 people

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  7. In India, during 18th/19th/20th centuries, parents/relations used to give gold [not diamond] jewelleries to brides as wedding presents/dowry so these lasted forever – with increasing value. Same is true about the word ‘love’, whose meaning has not changed over the millennia. And so are your ‘old’ Writing Tips. I’ve stumbled upon a heap of hidden gold jewelleries. So, I say in an old fashioned way, Thank You for the presents. Arun – an old/late admire/discover.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. For screenwriting, keep the verbs in the present tense whenever possible.

    From the examples above:

    He looks out the window.
    He runs down the street.
    He asks how to get to the bookstore.

    Liked by 1 person

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