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I'm writing a piece of fiction as training to improve my English skills, and I've written this small piece:

The boys had been bulling her again, hiding her things and dumping her backback in a muddy puddle just outside school.

My editor sent me this correction:

The boys had been bulling her again -- they, hid her things and dumped her backpack into a muddy puddle just outside school grounds.

While the words corrected were ok, I really want to keep this structure of a single long sentence of listing all the hurtful things done to her, instead of breaking the sentence in two pieces, and converting everything to the past. The question is, can I? Is listing actions using gerund, while talking about the past (as is common in fiction), a grammar err?

I reworked the sentence as this:

The boys had been bulling her again, hiding her trhings and dumping her backpack into a muddy puddle just outside school grounds.

Is it correct?

Thank you!

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The boys had been bulling her again -- they, hid her things and dumped her backpack into a muddy puddle just outside school grounds.

I hope your editor didn't return it like that. It's rubbish. Apart from anything else, he or she should have noticed the mis-spelling of bullying. As for the em dash—it has no business there at all.

Your original version is correct with a little tidying, i.e.

The boys had been bullying her again, hiding her things and dumping her backpack in a muddy puddle just outside school.

Sack your editor and get someone who knows what they are talking about.


P.S. It is fairly obvious that your editor is not a native speaker of English. That seems like a bad move on your part, especially when your English is better than theirs.

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  • Thank you for the answer! Well, this is just a little bit of unassuming fiction, written for posting in a website. The editor is just another guy (in fact, a girl) like us, who is giving me a hand at reviewing the text. I'm rubbish at grammar, all those horrible prepositions hauting my dreams, so she gives some pointers. She is, in fact, a native speaker, american nonetheless. The em dash seemed a little strange there, but I can already see she is a fan of short sentences, when I'm more of a take-a-big-breath-before-you-read-it. In time, I hope we can sync our quirks. – Andre Scutieri Oct 9 '15 at 0:21
  • Also, it sounds a bit James T. Kirk-ish :P – kayleeFrye_onDeck Oct 9 '15 at 0:24
  • For the bullying mispelling, probably because I wrote it so many times in so many different ways (yep, I'm that kind of guy) she missed it. All the other "bullying" are correctly spelled. – Andre Scutieri Oct 9 '15 at 0:25
  • Whether she is native or not, your grasp of English is far superior. I'm still sceptical because the phrase, "dumped her backpack into" is a real giveaway. It changes the meaning. If you dump a bag in a puddle then the bag goes in, together with its contents. If you dump a bag into a puddle then it means you empty the contents into the puddle. Which did you intend? P.S. Another giveaway of a non-native is, "outside school grounds". That's wrong. It is either 'outside school' or 'outside the school grounds." – chasly - supports Monica Oct 9 '15 at 0:27
  • The whole bag took a dive. As I've said, prepositions are one of my weaknesses, so I had no idea it really changed the meaning... I'll talk to her about it, as she volunteered to do it to me, I'm standing on quite thin ice to just dismiss her... I'm really thankful you pointed it out to me, as I'm still learning all those dreary, dreary grammar rules. Thank you! :D – Andre Scutieri Oct 9 '15 at 0:32
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There is nothing wrong with your sentence. It contains a participle phrase which can be fronted:

Hiding her things and dumping her backpack in a muddy puddle just outside school, the boys had been bullying her.

As to the dash, I would not use it and would opt for a colon (:). The colon signals that the following clause further explains the preceding clause. (The Art of Styling Sentences, Ann Longknife.)

"The boys had been bullying her again: They hid her things and dumped her backpack into a muddy puddle just outside school grounds."

I prefer the version with the colon.

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  • @chaslyfromUK typo corrected. – michael_timofeev Oct 9 '15 at 1:47
  • I don't see where the colon is supposed to go. Could you write it out in full with a colon? Thanks. – chasly - supports Monica Oct 9 '15 at 1:49
  • @chaslyfromUK example added. – michael_timofeev Oct 9 '15 at 1:50
  • @chaslyfromUK ok, now it's fixed. – michael_timofeev Oct 9 '15 at 1:51
  • @chaslyfromUK ok, now it's all tidied up. Now can I have my usual morning gin and tonic after stack exchange? – michael_timofeev Oct 9 '15 at 1:53

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