Writing Glitch #281

Today’s glitch:


Sometimes the problem isn’t the punctuation; sometimes the problem is the grammar.

The thing that towers is not the thing that ingests, even though that’s what the sentence is actually saying.

Have you ever read/heard the “rule” that it’s wrong to begin a sentence with an -ing word? Well, it isn’t wrong, but (as with so many things about writing) it’s easier to say “Don’t ever do this!” than it is to explain how to do it correctly. Also, I strongly suspect many “experts” don’t know how to do it correctly.

(Not long ago, I read an article saying, ‘Having graduated from an MFA program, this is a comfortable place for a writer.’ Um… No. The introductory phrase here — everything before the comma — cannot describe a place, because places don’t graduate from MFA programs. And yet, the way the sentence is written, that’s what it says: the comfortable place graduated from an MFA program. So you can guess Mercenary Proofreader’s opinion about the program that allowed someone with such crappy grammar to receive an advanced degree in writing… This is why we can’t have nice things. *sigh* And in case you’re wondering, here’s the correct version of that sentence: Having graduated from an MFA program, I found this a comfortable place for a writer. Now the introductory phrase fits the subject of the sentence.)

Anyway. Towering and ingesting…

Towering five feet tall, this plant is toxic, and ingesting any part of it will result in blindness and death.

See? Now it’s a compound sentence, and the subject of the first part (the toxic plant) isn’t confused with the subject of the second part (the gerund ingesting — a gerund is an -ing word functioning as a noun, as in Reading is my favorite hobby).


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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3 Responses to Writing Glitch #281

  1. M. Oniker says:

    Having never heard this rule (so many rules, so little time), I am reluctant to go back through my writings to see just how many (bad) examples of this one I have.

    Just curious, is Dr. Anderson, in The Remnant, based on a real person? Or would that be telling?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing. This type of sentence provokes my inner questioner. “What does the fact that the plant is five feet tall have to do with it being toxic or enticing someone to eat it?” The last time I saw a plant that tall was in a greenhouse in Colorado–I had no desire to ingest it because I could pretty well guess what the side effects would be.

    Liked by 1 person

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