I work as an editor and I've found that many writers (usually novices) inappropriately begin sentences with "-ing" words (as opposed to appropriately beginning sentences with "-ing" words. It's a common problem in my field. Here are two consecutive examples from an essay I'm currently editing:

  1. Determining a medium of instruction in education is driven by political, social and economic forces.

  2. Championing a foreign language has disadvantaged speakers of indigenous languages.

I know how to correct these sentences - "The determination of..." etc. - but what rule should I give my author?

  • 5
    Telling them, "Don't listen to me when I tell you it's incorrect to start a sentence with an '-ing' word." might be a good place to start.
    – Jim
    Jan 25, 2016 at 5:32
  • Related question, When is it acceptable to start a sentence with an “-ing” word?. As I commented to your answer to the linked question, please take the tour and visit our Help Center.
    – user140086
    Jan 25, 2016 at 5:37
  • 1
    Your examples sound stilted and bureaucratic, but your proposed solution makes that problem even worse.
    – The Photon
    Jan 25, 2016 at 6:11
  • 1
    @Jim The OP isn't saying that we shouldn't start sentences with -ing words. They're asking about how to advise people who are doing this inappropriately, as in the OP's examples. Jan 25, 2016 at 11:25
  • 1
    (But if you tell them to not start sentences with *ing words they may take that the wrong way.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 25, 2016 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


I understood both sentences. They are communicating effectively. If you wish to "correct," them, I suggest that you be clear about the purely stylistic motivation for the changes. Sentences that sound awkward are not grammatically incorrect, nor are they a failure to communicate. They are simply sub-optimal for the chosen reader/listener.


The rule you should give them is to use the simplest word that communicates clearly what needs to be communicated.

Taking just the first sentence (I'm sure you can extend the lesson to the second):

  1. The word you need here at the beginning is choosing. You could certainly replace it with Choice, but choosing is the process, and it is the process that is “driven by” (I’d prefer heavily influenced by, or informed by) the socio-econo-political-etc. milieu.

  2. If you really hate —ing words, use Choice of ….

  3. The single largest nastiness in this sentence is instruction in education, which while it’s attempting to be precise, sounds like a horrible tautology as phrased. One or the other should be sufficient to get the point across.

I would personally suggest something along the lines of

Choice of instruction medium is subject to social, economic and political pressures

but that’s just me.

One final comment: this could be the result of trying too hard to paraphrase “sources” using nothing but a thesaurus and a smalllllll aubergine…

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