Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

Is there anything wrong with starting a lot of sentences with verbs that end in -ing? Here'san example: "Swinging the bat, the ball soared past the wooden fence."

Too much of any one stylistic choice can dampen the vibrancy of your prose. So, it’s a good idea to change things up, even at the sentence level. Based on your sample sentence, though, the problem goes beyond repetitive syntax. Let me explain.

Two things happen in this sentence: 1) he swung the bat and 2) the ball went past the wooden fence. The way you’ve constructed the sentence indicates they happened at the same time. As he swung the bat, the ball soared past the fence. While these actions certainly happen in quick succession, they don’t happen simultaneously. First, he swings the bat. After that, the ball soars past the fence. You have some options on how to fix this and make the cause and effect nature of the action clear:

He swung the bat and the ball soared past the rickety wooden fence.

He swung the bat. The ball soared past the rickety wooden fence.

Plenty of sentences with this construction can work. Just make sure the actions happen at the same time.