You and Your Goddamned Gerunds

Reblogged from Grapnel Books

by , under grammar, Rants, style

Your goddamned gerunds are driving me crazy. You’re taking a perfectly good sentence and castrating it. Removing all its power by putting the focus on the verb. And you might be messing up the POV.Plus, you are using to be way too much. You are responsible for that. You are using gerunds and to be and you are making your prose more flabby than you are intending it to be.You see that there? That’s irony.  In all seriousness, as an exercise I suggest you take a solid look at a couple pages of your novel, story, vignette, article or whatever. Go in with slaughter in mind. The mission? Kill every goddamned gerund. And while you’re at it, kill every goddamned is, are, be, am, etc. Death to gerunds. Death to to be.Yeah, you might sacrifice eloquence.

You might throw clarity in the garbage.

You may well change an elegant little speech into something resembling a medical textbook

To be or not to be,
That is the question.


To live or to die,
I ask myself this.

I like the first one better.

I know we’ve done this before with suddenly, very, probably and only.  I don’t tout this as a fix-all, never-break-it rule. Sometimes  a gerund and to be are exactly the things you want to be using.  I am talking an exercise here.

I firmly believe you have the right to break any goddamned rule you want. Sentence fragments, run-ons, comma splices. You just need to keep your awareness high so you know what you do and why.

Just remember two things:

1. Faulkner died a long time ago, and you aren’t his successor.

2. You should almost always omit that semi-colon and do something else.


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