The World’s Worst Sentence Structure Revisited

In June last year, I went on a bit of a tirade here on PIFW about preceding participle phrases. I also dumped upon readers on Medium. But my distaste for this sentence structure goes back a long way before I said so publicly.

And it turns out, I’m not the only writer/editor who abhors preceding participle phrases. Just in case you thought this was a pet peeve of just moi, let me hasten to reassure you.

Nathan Bransford called it “The worst sentence structure on the planet“, earlier this year, while David Owen decried the grammar in a post on The New Yorker.

Nathan Bransford had another bash at it a couple of years ago, too. (And I thought I hated it!)

A lot of writers and editors are not fond of preceding participle phrases, but they rarely call them that. Bransford calls them “VERBing, character(s) VERBED” sentences, while other writers simply describe them, then bash the life out of them.

Once you’re primed about what a preceding participle phrase is, you’ll never been able to unsee them. They’ll spear you in the throat and make you gag, every single time.

Eliminating them in your own writing (or using them very, very carefully!) will instantly pick up your pacing and improve your writing immeasurably.

Try it and see.

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