I'm proofreading someone else's video game script, and I'm having a bit of trouble with her use of absolute phrases. She likes using absolute phrases in her sentence structures, like so:

My fingers trembling with fear, I carefully dial the number in my phone.

This is something I think we can all agree is correct, but what about when she applies that structure for sequences of events? For instance:

Finding the phone, I carefully dial the number with trembling fingers.

In the first example, my fingers are trembling with fear as I'm dialling the number. It's not a sequence of events; they're both happening in conjunction with each other. In the second example, though, there is a sequence of events. First I find the phone, and then I dial the number. I can't dial the number as I'm finding the phone.

How well does the sentence structure work in sentences like the second example? Does it sound weird or is it OK? Am I right to leave it in there, or should I suggest alternatives such as:

Having found the phone, I carefully dial the number with trembling fingers.

After finding the phone, I carefully dial the number with trembling fingers.

I find the phone and carefully dial the number with trembling fingers.

Some more opinions would be welcomed!

  • 1
    This is a question about writing style. OT, IMO.
    – Drew
    Apr 29, 2017 at 18:03
  • the second example is perfectly idiomatic and often used.
    – user175542
    Apr 29, 2017 at 20:50
  • read "finding" as a perfective, just like "having found the phone". -ing words may usually have continuous aspect (i am typing this now), but may also have perfective aspect ("hitting my thumb with the hammer, i howled in pain").
    – user175542
    Apr 29, 2017 at 20:55
  • note that finding is an event, not a process. you can say "I was trying to find my phone when the doorbell rang", but not "I was finding my phone when the doorbell rang."
    – user175542
    Apr 29, 2017 at 21:04

2 Answers 2


I'm no expert here, but I often write using absolute phrases, and I think that both of the sentences you used as examples are absolutely fine. The first structure is, as you said, "as you do x, y is happening". However, I interpret the second structure as "as a response to x, I do y". For example, you could replace that sentence with one such as: "Kicking myself for missing something so obvious, I re-opened the box". I know this is correct because I've seen it multiple times when reading, so I am pretty sure your example is accurate as well.


In my opinion it's better to describe both actions with proper adverbs: Shaking with fear, he picked up the phone and dialed the numbers slowly and carefully.

  • 1
    Can you add a brief explanation of why you think that your version sounds better?
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 27, 2017 at 1:31
  • because in the mind of the reader you create more imagery. A good mix will be Shaking with fear, he picked up the phone and dialed with trembling fingers. Also having found the phone and after he found the phone sound like newspaper. Nov 27, 2017 at 2:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.