Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Dreaded "ly" & "ing" words

I received a question in one of the comments and thought I would post the answer in the "Let's Write" posts. It is a good question!
"What's the dreaded 'ly' and 'ing' words?

These words ('ly' adverb modifiers, like quickly, happily, luckily, fearfully, shockingly . . . and so forth, as well as the present progressive verbs: 'standing,' 'sitting,' 'writing,' 'eating,' etc.) are--by themselves--perfectly good words, and there is not a story around that does not use them. Hey, I do! But I am careful not to let these "ly" adverbs and "ing" verbs take over and become PESTS in my story. Believe me, I've edited books where every other sentence had some kind of "pest" infestation. It gets old fast. Read these sentences to see what I mean.

~ Hastily tossing the rock aside, Tyler raced for his bike.
~ Smiling sheepishly, Mary quickly slid over. 
~ “Hurry, Dad!” Paul shouted, trying hopelessly to hang on to the ledge.
~ “We won!” Tom said excitedly, echoing his brother’s shout of victory.
~ “I love it!” Anna yelled, hanging over the railing.
~ Smiling, Suzy said, “Don’t forget me.”
~ “That’s awesome!” Joey agreed, staring at the new car. 
~ Hunkering down, Chris tried to reach the hammer.
~ Squinting, Peter looked up at the noon sky.


By themselves, the sentences above are fine. But using the same "form" over and over again in the same story scene is not a good idea.

A lot of 'ing' words are used as introductory phrases in a sentence. Once in a while, that is fine. Variety is good! But they can easily turn into pest words with overuse. It is much better to simply say, Chris hunkered down and tried to reach the hammer.  or Peter squinted up at the noon sky. Save those "ing" words for special uses!

Sometimes, these "pests" latch on to dialogue tags ("he said," "she said" are dialogue tags). A few are certainly okay, and they add variety to your story. It starts to drive the reader a little crazy, though, when every time a character talks, an 'ly' or 'ing' word is added.

All is not lost. There is a way to creatively correct the problem. With a little thoughts, you can change the wording around and use strong verbs instead of weak ones that need an "ly" modifier.

~ Mary held the railing tightly. Change to: Mary gripped the railing.
~ Jon talked loudly. Change to: Jon shouted.
~ The deer quickly ran away. Change to: The deer bounded away.

If you would like practice, go through some of your own stories or even the Fan Stories here to find examples. I have to warn you, however, that the Fan Stories are pretty "clean" (not too many bugs in them, LOL). But it would be fun to try. Remember: Occasional use is FINE. Don't knock all of the "ly" or "ing" words out of your story. It will look stilted. Just keep a good balance. That's the key!

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  1. WOW! Thank you for the tips. I'll be careful to use ing and ly only a few times in my stories.

  2. Those are some great ideas!
    Thanks so much:)

  3. Thank you! I have never heard that. I will be sure to not use them all the time. By the way, I am obviously back. Just wanted to let you know. Guess I have A LOT of catching up to do.

  4. Glad your back, Horse Crazy Gal:)

  5. I just read the "I need help" post and here is my comment copied from there"
    What are these titles for anyways? I don't get it. What are they for? But to answer your question I like the colons instead of "and the".
    Hope its not too late, if it is what was the "winning vote"? (All the same please answer because I still want to know. LOL. ) :) I missed you all. Multiple times I tried to go on but. . . well you know. LOL

    1. I answered in the I Need Help post. The winning vote had to do with a nutshell summary I had to provide to Kregel. I put 2 suggestions up there and had you guys vote on which one you liked most. Sorry! You have missed a lot! And we missed you!

      Here is the one that won. I don't have the original ones any longer. I combined the two into one, since the vote was so close:

      When outlaws turn from rustling Circle C cattle to stealing horses, Andi forges an unlikely bond with an unpleasant classmate because she believes Macy may hold the key to recovering Taffy’s missing foals.

    2. OK. Thanks a lot. Sounds exciting!

  6. My little sister aka: "little sis" wanted me to put this where people will see it since it is still new. She dictated to me her comment and I typed it up. It is from the post where you talk about your burn piles. She dictated as follows:

    I know what you mean. Every winter we do a burn pile in our yard. It's a lot of fun. Usually horse crazy gal and I do school work around the fire since we are home schooled. Every winter we also take a big pile of wood and stack under cover for our wood burning stove.
    (By the way, I am from the post Andi did called "I met horse crazy gal and little sis." :)

    1. Thanks for commenting, A--... I mean Lil Sis. Burn piles are fun! And warm. I just wished I had some marshmallows for my latest pile. But alas, no!

      thanks for typing up Lil Sis's comment, HCG

  7. Yay, you're back!!!
    And thanks a lot for the tips Mrs. M :)

  8. That's really good to know. Thanks so much for posting!

  9. Thank's for the tips! That's good to know.

  10. Good tips as usual. :) Always so helpful. For those of you who haven't figured out Susan Marlow's and my bantering about my 'writing instructor', Susan was my writing instructor almost two years ago. For those of you who have not taken her course, believe me, it was the best hundred dollars I've EVER spent! I learned so much from that course and I recommend it to all aspiring writers! I even edit stories now for kids around the world on a website I'm part of, and I credit it to Susan's course. So if ya'll want to become better writers, take the course! You won't regret it. ;)

    -Calamity Rene

    1. Where can you buy the course?

    2. Well, I have a student right now, but I took the page off the website, as I just didn't have a lot of time to get an influx of students. However, for my special "fans" over here, I will give you the hidden page if you are interested in learning more about it and/or signing up. :-)


Let Andi know what you think!