Where have all the participial phrases gone? Almost nobody uses them anymore. When we edit books, we marvel at how much waste and clumsiness could be avoided with a simple PP. We are forever shortening and streamlining material by employing them ourselves.
A participle is a verb that is used as an adjective or adverb; it generally ends in –ed or –ing. A PP then, is composed of a participle and its modifiers. It still functions as an adjective or adverb but now, instead of a word, there is a phrase. Here are some examples:
Holding the flashlight with a shaky hand, Norman stepped out of his tent.
Norman waved the light through the trees, creating a lot of ghostly shadows.
What PP’s do is streamline paragraphs by cutting down on the number of sentences. They improve flow and make prose more elegant and interesting. Below are some sentences which can be combined with the use of PP’s.
• I guided the pinball through the upper chutes, down a runover lane, off the slingshot bumpers to the flippers.
• I cradled it there.
• I bounced it back and forth until I had a perfect shot through the spinner.
Guiding the ball through the upper chutes, down a runover lane, off the slingshot bumpers to the flippers, I cradled it there, bouncing it back and forth until I had a perfect shot through the spinner. (J. Anthony Lucas, THE INNER GAME OF PINBALL)
You can see the difference in the series of short, choppy sentences and the one flowing sentence with the PP’s. It’s huge, and this is why we encourage writers to revive the participial phrase.