The thing about 'Ing'.

Friday, December 16, 2005


So, I'm reading this book (which shall remain unnamed to protect the guilty-where-the-frig-was-my-editor-party) and it doesn't take me long to notice this author has a suffix fixation. To wit, a thing for ing. Tossing, grabbing, riding, throwing, rising, assessing, holding, oh my!


A lot of authorly types will tell you those 'ings' could be a red flag signaling weak construction, and that you should use the more dynamic verb tense: Tossed, grabbed, threw, etc. I sorta understood the reasoning, or at least those 'ed' ending verbs *sounded* a lot stronger to my ear. ::shrug::

But in this book I noticed the real danger of 'ings'-- you can hide a whole lot of *no real progress* with those little devils.

If the character is walking, he's not only in action but the reader is waiting for the conclusion, ie "walking to the store", "walking then got run over by a pack of ravaging cannibal squirrels". That sort of thing.

Except, with this writer, the conclusion never comes. Nothing decisive really happens, except we get palmed off to another 'ing' and then another. Ings can be boring as hell, plus they clutter the page up without adding anthing to the story.

The more dynamic non-ing verbs demand a conclusion. They're declarative. And not only that, they require a bit of glue, some explanation, or softening around the edges to smooth the way to the next declarative statement. You can't get away with declarative after declarative after declarative, the way you can with those smooooth 'ings'. The prose would be way too choppy.

'ings' can be a crutch to a writer, giving the impression of action, and excitement. But true excitement and action are found in plot and characterization. I'm not suggesting doing away with 'ings', but too much use can severely weaken your writing. Which is what the pros were talking about. I get it now.
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raine said...


One of my cps recently pointed out that I was doing this in one ms.

Thanks for reinforcing it--I see your point.

Jaye said...

In this book it was *really* bad. Normally, I will highlight 'ings' in a crit, simply because they draw my attention if there's too much of them in one passage. It's the repetition. But I finally saw how it weakens the writing with the prologue I read. I figure once I start keeping count of anything - 'ings', exclamation points, odd phrases/mannerisms, there's a problem with the writing.

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