1. Elena
    Offline

    Elena New Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0

    gerund use question

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Elena, May 7, 2010.

    Hi guys - quick question about phrasing.

    Which sounds more powerful?

    - Mark looked up and grinned at Polly.

    - Mark looked up, grinning at Polly.


    I personally like the second phrasing, but I just started writing and am curious as to whether there is a general preference. Does one of the above tend to be sneered at by the editing community?
     
  2. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    I think it depends on context. The tone of the writing around it needs to be known. However, if it stands out from the rest of the story for whatever reason, I think the latter sounds more powerful, and both are correct, without any real reason not to use them.
     
  3. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I don't really feel a greater or lesser strength from either construction.

    Both constructions are rather tell. A show construction would be more like:

    Mark looked up. The grin on his face left Polly flushed. She would skip instead of walk for at least a week.
     
  4. Halcyon
    Offline

    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    England
    Hi Elena.

    For me it would largely depend on whether it's a full sentence in its own right, or whether something comes afterwards.

    For a full sentence, I'd stick with "looked up and grinned". But I'd use the other if it was only a sentence fragment, such as "Mark looked up, grinning at Polly, and said..."

    Hope that helps.
     
  5. Elena
    Offline

    Elena New Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Halcyon, thanks so much. I'm using that turn of phrase to flesh out my dialog - you hit the nail on the head.
     
  6. Elena
    Offline

    Elena New Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for everyone's reply, by the way. I really appreciate the thought you all put into your answers!
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    First, a technical point. A gerund is the participle form of a verb used in a noun context, e.g.:
    A participle indicates continuing action. The range of continuation depends on the context, but in a sentence such as yours, it spans the duration of the other action. That works okay in your example, but in other instances it does not:
    It's very difficult to continue to sigh while speaking a complete sentence, and the attempt would be more comical than sentimental.
     
  8. Humour Whiffet
    Offline

    Humour Whiffet Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    And whatever you do, don’t go fusing those participles!
     
  9. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    A further technical point: most grammarians no longer consider English to have gerunds, and now refer to "-ing forms". That's partly because of the ambiguity of sentences like "The matter needed checking". If some care is needed, is it "The matter needed careful checking" or "The matter needed checking carefully"? Both are valid, but in one case "checking" is a noun, in the other it's a verb. So which was it in the original sentence? Neither -- it was an "-ing form", which can be used as a noun or a verb.

    Was he grinning at Polly all through the process of looking up? So he was grinning at Polly before he was actually looking at her? Seems wrong to me.
     
  10. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    I would say the opposite. I would say that the originals are very definitely showing. Yours are very decidedly telling. Think about the words "showing" and "telling" -- "showing" is basically about what the person at the scene would be aware of (the term is visual, but it applies to other senses too). Now, the observer can see that Mark looked up and that he grinned. They can see that Polly flushed, but they don't know that it was because of the grin without you telling them. And they won't know what she will do for the next week without you telling them.
     
  11. Unit7
    Offline

    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    59
    Wreybies was showing. The idea of showing is to show the reader the characters actions and not necessarily telling them the reasons behind the action.

    Wreybies didn't say why she flushed. He didn't even tell why she would be doing that for the next week. He didn't tell us any of this. But he showed us this. Without telling us that she has a crush on him. Not only that it showed us that perhaps this female doesn't think the guy even really notices her at all. The fact that he acknowledged her was something big to her.

    But yes he was definitely showing. Alot can be extracted from those sentences.

    But then maybe I have all this wrong. lol
     
  12. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Yes he did -- it was because of the grin on Mark's face.

    I grant that the bit about showing being from the perspective of somebody there was a considerable simplification, but I did a term paper on showing and telling two years ago, for which I collected lots and lots of examples of showing and telling from writing guides and workshops (and subjected them to linguistic analysis). Examples of telling included:
    • The Salinas Valley is in Northern Carolina. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay.
    • A good time was had by all.
    • The city suffered significant damage in the blast.
    • Jack was afraid.
    • Dave thought Brenda was acting secretive.
    • Singh had a reputation for being able to cut through layers of bureaucracy and get things done.
    • Blanche felt like she was going to lose control at any moment. She tried her hardest to hide it from the unwelcome guests who had dropped in for a cup of tea and a chat. Blanche wished they would just go away.
    None of those were about motivation -- very few of the examples I found were.

    Maybe Wreybies' examples weren't strictly telling (Elena's certainly weren't telling), but they were an authorial intervention which I felt distanced the reader from the action, which is is the same consequence as telling if not the same cause.
     
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Back on topic, please.
     

Share This Page