Is this sentence correct?

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  1. #1

    Is this sentence correct?

    I am thinking about changing it anyways because I know people frown on starting sentences with -ing words. But is this grammatically correct:

    Stepping out of the car, John noticed the crunch of the gravel under his boot as he lowered his feet to the ground.


    It was suggested to eliminate -ing words from the beginning of sentences and I have been researching the reason so now I am wondering if I even understand how to make a correct sentence starting with an -ing word.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by mbear View Post
    I am thinking about changing it anyways because I know people frown on starting sentences with -ing words. But is this grammatically correct:

    Stepping out of the car, John noticed the crunch of the gravel under his boot as he lowered his feet to the ground.


    It was suggested to eliminate -ing words from the beginning of sentences and I have been researching the reason so now I am wondering if I even understand how to make a correct sentence starting with an -ing word.
    Too many -ing words can sometimes weaken a piece of writing, even if the grammar is correct.

    It appears to be grammatically sound, though perhaps not the most efficient way of wording it. The part about John lowering his feet to the ground could be redundant because it's already strongly implied. However, if John is a character who has previously experienced difficulty in walking or with leg movement, it may be perfectly valid to highlight that he lowered his feet to the ground. This is why it's sometimes hard to give an objective view on a very small sample of writing.

    The grammar aspect looks fine though.


  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mbear View Post
    I am thinking about changing it anyways because I know people frown on starting sentences with -ing words. But is this grammatically correct:

    Stepping out of the car, John noticed the crunch of the gravel under his boot as he lowered his feet to the ground.


    It was suggested to eliminate -ing words from the beginning of sentences and I have been researching the reason so now I am wondering if I even understand how to make a correct sentence starting with an -ing word.
    There's nothing wrong with the sentence but it is tautologous...

    Stepping out of the car, John noticed the crunch of the gravel under his boot as he lowered his feet to the ground.

    ^ The central meaning of the part in green (the character disembarked from the car) is repeated by the blue which simply adds detail that may or may not be needed. What you keep vs. what you dispense with will depend on the rhythm needed, however it is clear that you do not need to mention the character stepping from the car as it is implied entirely through the 'crunch of the gravel as he lowered his feet to the ground'.

    I would also be interested why John is noticing such a trivial detail he probably expected. Is this in the dark where he doesn't know what he is 'stepping out' into?

    I would probably just go with "The gravel crunched under his boot as John lowered his feet." Simple, not-overblown, and contains the information in a non-repetitive way.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbear View Post
    I am thinking about changing it anyways because I know people frown on starting sentences with -ing words. But is this grammatically correct:

    Stepping out of the car, John noticed the crunch of the gravel under his boot as he lowered his feet to the ground.


    It was suggested to eliminate -ing words from the beginning of sentences and I have been researching the reason so now I am wondering if I even understand how to make a correct sentence starting with an -ing word.
    It's grammatically correct but to me it is rather generic, and has a few of my pet peeves:

    1 - the "X'ing to the Y, subject A did such-and-such", which I suspect makes me one of those people who frown over starting sentences with such things. It's just very generic, not very voicey or interesting

    2 - noticed: this is the main offender filter word You are wanting, in most cases, to establish point of view. You want readers to be a character, and see what they see. This has readers picturing some guy called John busily noticing stuff, gurning madly as he gazes, locks his eyes even, at whatever it is. We don't see what he sees, we see him seeing it, looking, noticing, glancing, all that filter stuff. Make us be John and show us only what he sees,

    3 - as-linked sentences: "X happened as Y happened". People do this when they want to sound long-sentencey. But it's again, so generic.

    4 - redundancy/. Someone mentioned this. "He lowered his feet to the ground" is the same as stepping. You basically have "Stepping to the ground, John noticed he was stepping on the ground as he stepped across the ground."

    In all it is a very tell-heavy sentence. Yes, it reports on all the correct data. But you need to make the things happen, not just report that they did. So how to rewrite it? You may need to do some setup beforehand. Establish POV - make us be John using techniques such as making us privy to his thoughts etc. Then, once we're John, you can just have us progress through the world detail by detail, because when you're walking, you don't think about the fact that you're walking, you simply do it, and stuff passes by as you move; eg:

    The car rumbled to a a halt. Was he doing the right thing? John wasn't sure any longer. He pushed the door open and stepped onto the gravel. Strangely, the crunch-crunch underfoot as he approached the house was the only sound, but surely there would be birds among the giant oaks, the hiss of cars on the freeway. Nothing. There was nothing.

    He gripped the door handle.
    Hope this helps


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  5. #5
    IMO the sentence is too 'fluffy'. Over inflated with words that don't carry their own weight. The action in the sentence is John stepping out of the car -- that's good, it moved the story forward. The action is flavored by a bit of sensory input -- the crunch of the gravel -- also good, it gives the story texture. But all that is diluted by the excess, repetitive verbiage. Deflate it a bit and you get:

    Gravel crunched under John's boots as he stepped out of the car.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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