editing / writers tips

Writers Tips #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-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. 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 six 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. 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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7 thoughts on “Writers Tips #5: Beware the gerund

  1. I absolutely love your site.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my very own blog and would love to learn where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Thank you!


  2. We need to shout this to the world. Many of the books I read that just don’t quite make it have this problem. I call one of my editing scans my de-wassing pass. When I get rid of the ‘to be’ verbs, usually followed by a gerund, the prose improves hugely.


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