Participial phrases

by Mike

I read your article on cutting back on participial phrases with interest but you seem to have limited your comments to leading participial phrases i.e. where the participial phrase comes first. But what about them when they come at the end of the sentence? Are they okay? I find I use a lot of those e.g.

A wall of noise slammed into the old man, driving the breath from his lungs, hurling him across the yard. His back smashed into the concrete, pain flooding his body. Is this usage okay?


Participial phrases are not ungrammatical, so the use of them in either place is theoretically correct. Out of the context of an entire manuscript, your use of them here looks fine.

The problem comes with overuse, wherever they are placed in the sentence. Even when the phrase is clear, as yours are, overuse may contribute to sluggish writing.

Many beginning writers will have several participial phrases on a page, so my advice, at least at first, is to avoid them to break the habit, or until the writer is better able to judge for him/herself the effectiveness of the sentence.

Search this site: