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Exercise Seven

No matter what style of writing, your goal should be to get your point or story across using the strongest and shortest number of words and sentences. Let's start today by eliminating words that often stop action and flow. Which sentence seems stronger and has more action: 

     1. She began running across the field. 
     2. She ran across the field. 

Either you are running, or you are not. The word began + an -ing word actually hold back action. Other words combined with -ing words that stifle action are the words started and verb forms of "to be" i.e. is, was, were. If it doesn't change the meaning of the sentence, you can take away the above listed words and change the -ing words. This will change your sentence from one of telling to one showing action. This makes it a stronger sentence and lowers the word count. The only time you would keep the sentence as in #1 is when the action is stopped mid-way i.e. She began running across the field but stopped when someone called her name. Sentences that start with words ending in –ing also lose power. Look at this sentence. 


     Leaving the concert early, she went home. 
Now change it. 
     She left the concert early and went home. 

​Which seems stronger? In this case, we actually add to the word count but strengthen the meaning. You don’t have to get rid of every –ing word, but if you can make the meaning stronger, show instead of tell, and in some cases, reduce the word count, then make the change.

Infinitives (the word "to" followed by a simple verb) are the same. For example, The stars seemed to shine. The stars shined. I started to walk across the ice. I walked  across the ice. Which sentences show more action? Which seem stronger?

Your Assignment

Now pull out your first chapter. Use your word processor’s find tool, search for words ending in  “ing”. Be sure to put a space after the g so it will not pull words that have an s on it such as springs or things. When you find a word, decide if the sentence would be stronger without the –ing word or phrase and make changes accordingly. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You can do the same with the word “to” or just do a visual scan for infinitive phrases that can be changed.