Introductory Phrase

Using a Comma with a Participial Phrase to Convert a Simple Sentence into Introductory Phrase

A stubby declarative sentence Opens in new window often can be transformed to an introductory phrase, then combined with another short sentence or sentences to form a flowing sentence.

Our technique here is to use a comma with a participial phrase which works particularly well as an introductory phrase.

A participial phrase Opens in new window begins with a participle, which is merely the verb form of a word that ends with –ing (for the present participle) or –ed (for the past participle).

The participial phrase includes additional words that, together with the participle, function as an adjective.

Present Participial Phrase Examples
  • Disappearing into the crowd, the thief eluded the police.
  • Scavenging for an easy meal, the gulls help to keep the beach clean.
Past Particial Phrase Examples
  • Scared to ring the doorbell, the children stood frozen at the door.
  • Elated with her test scores, Jennifer applied to Harvard and Stanford.

The following examples demonstrate the method of converting a declarative sentence to a participial phrase, and then combining the phrase with another sentence to create a more sophisticated sentence.

First Attempt

Let’s work on those first two short sentences.

By rewriting the first sentence into a participial phrase, bored with life, and using it as an introductory phrase for the subsequent sentence, we can transform the passage.

Revised
  • Bored with life, John set out to travel the world. The first leg of his trip was going to take him to Mexico City.

    This method cuts down on wordiness by eliminating common words in both of the short sentences. For instance, in the above example, we eliminated the pronoun reference to the subject, John, in the second sentence (he), as well as the weak verb, was, in the first sentence.

    Below is another example illustrating a situation in which we can convert a short declarative sentence into a participial phrase and then use it as an introductory phrase for a more sophisticated sentence.

    First Attempt

    Transform the above sentences by changing the first sentence into the participial phrase having studied grammar. Then use it as an introductory phrase to create a complex sentence.

    Revised
    • Having studied grammar, Gretchen felt more comfortable in her writing.

    Again, notice the decreased number of words in the revised sentence. Not only does the passage flow better, but it is also less wordy.

    Let’s look at one last example of converting a simple sentence into a participial phrase and then using this phrase to introduce the second sentence.

    First Attempt

    Converting the first sentence into a participial phrase, excited by her progress, and then using it to introduce the subsequent sentence can improve the above passage. Notice the word count of both passages.

    Revised
    • Excited by her progress, Margaret moved on to the next lesson.

    Now consider again this sentence:
    • Having studied grammar, Gretchen felt more comfortable in her writing.

    The participial phrase, having studied grammar, refers to the subject of the sentence, Gretchen. The sentence makes sense when this relationship between the participial phrase and subject remains intact.

    Let’s look for this relationship in another example.
    • Excited by her progress, Margaret moved on to the next lesson.

    Likewise, the participial phrase, excited by her progress, refers to the subject of the sentence, Margaret.

    The sentence makes it clear that Margaret is progressing because she is encouraged by her progress.

    By contrast, let’s examine what happens when the writer uses a dangling participle Opens in new window and incorrectly modifies the wrong noun in the sentence with a participial phrase.

    • Having recently died, I thought of Jim every day.

    Do you see the problem here? How can you think of someone when you are dead?

    Obviously, the writer meant that the subject, I, thought of the recently deceased, Jim, every day. Unfortunately, the writer modified I rather than Jim with the participial phrase. Watch out for those dangling participles Opens in new window!

    The surest way to avoid this kind of error is to carefully read what you have written to ensure that you haven’t accidentally used a dangling participle Opens in new window.

    The above examples showed you how a participial phrase Opens in new window can make your writing flow. Together, the introductory phrase and the comma are powerful tools that you can use to smooth out choppy writing.

    Let’s examine another method that utilizes the comma to improve writing Opens in new window plagued by chains of simple sentences.