Can you start a sentence with an –ing word? Yes, you can! In fact you can start a sentence with almost any word. (You may have been told that you can’t start a sentence with and or but. Not true! Professional writers have always started sentences with those words. There’s no such rule – and never has been.)
But some words are potential minefields for starting a sentence, and you should be wary of using them that way. Examples include like, such as, who, which – and yes, -ing words are risky.
Of course it’s correct to start a sentence with a word ending in –ing: But you risk writing a sentence fragment or a dangling modifier. It’s a good idea to check the first word of every sentence to see if either of those errors has crept in. (Checking the first word will also help catch other potential errors.) Read on for examples.
Some –ing words are participles – meaning that they’re descriptions of something else. They need to be glued on to a sentence.
All morning long, two officers were busy. Digging holes in the back yard to look for the murder weapon. SENTENCE + FRAGMENT
“Digging” describes the officers, so it’s an adjective. It needs to be glued on to the previous sentence:
All morning long, two officers were busy digging holes in the back yard to look for the murder weapon. CORRECT
2. Dangling modifiers:
Descriptions need to be placed next to the person or thing they’re describing. Separating them causes an error called a dangling (“hanging”) modifier (“description”).
I saw smoke coming out of a warehouse driving down Second Street. DANGLING MODIFIER
The warehouse wasn’t driving–you were!
Here’s the corrected sentence:
Driving down Second Street, I saw smoke coming out of a warehouse. CORRECT
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