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At a mentoring clinic with Cec Muphey, Frank Ball learned how the progressive -ing verbs can be passive, weak writing. They often hinder the story’s rapid movement forward and sometimes show an ongoing action when a completed action was intended. For example, if we say, “John was buttoning his shirt,” we might wonder if he ever finished. What we really mean is: “John buttoned his shirt,” so that’s what we should say.

Sometimes we grasp lessons better if we overdo what we’ve been told not to do. Could we write an interesting story, 100 percent grammatically correct, that used -ing words to a fault? Here’s what Frank wrote:

At dawn, the King of Ing was standing at his window, wishing for a better way of communicating with his people who were not responding to his commanding style but were sitting, resting, and accomplishing little. He started pacing, moving from one side of the room to the other, contemplating what to do. Knowing improvement was not happening without something changing, he was considering acquiring a differing way of writing. Therefore, using his own quill, he began composing an edict for posting at the city square.

Will the same story read better in simple past tense, without those twenty-two -ing forms?

At dawn, the King of Ing stood at his window and wished for a better way to communicate with his people who had not responded to his commands but sat, rested, and accomplished little. As he paced from one side of the room to the other, he contemplated what to do. Without change, improvement is impossible, so he considered a different way to write. Therefore, he used his own quill to compose this edict posted at the city square: Your leader has decided to speak in better style as your new King of Simple Past Tense.