StreetWrites Workshop for Writing Out of the Margins

Pesky Participles

"Participles" are verb forms which introduce phrases. They are grammatically correct, but they can clog the arteries of your story.


Racing down the sidewalk, wolfing down the last of her muffin and washing it down with her still-scalding coffee, musing over the look her husband gave her as she was charging out of the apartment door on her way to work, Emily found herself wondering, could he be right, was she going too fast these days, trying to do too much at once, not giving enough time to their relationship? And what was the man's name, anyway?

Participle phrases indicate simultaneous action, two or more things happening at once. This may be the effect you want. More often, you want to build a sense of unfolding action and suspense and let the reader experience the story.


Examine a recent story or article you have written. Look for participle phrases. Try a rewrite that unfolds the action step-by-step in story time.

Guidelines for Critique

What is the effect of each version?

Write On!
Anitra L. Freeman

StreetWrites Workshop Exercises