Keeping your adverbials in their proper place

‘Stopping to rethread the needle twice before she got to the end, she got up and stood at the ironing board to press the skirt with a warm iron ready for collection.’

‘Pushing the mop handle out of the way, a cloud of ants spread out in all directions, making her dance from one foot to the other.’

The Guardian goes on rather a lot about “the fronted adverbial”, in case you’re wondering just why this writing is so dire. Your homework is to find out what the fronted adverbial is.

The review of The Ludlow Ladies Society, an entry in The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, goes in rather hard:

I can’t remember the last time I encountered a book of such rhythmic monotony, as well as containing so many moments of unwitting ambiguity. In the sentences above, is it the ants moving the mop, or that dancing “her”’? And is that someone getting up at the same time as she is stopping to thread a needle, or doing it before?
Or: “Pain shot through her, like a knife through the butter Michael Conway had put in the box.” So the pain was like a knife, but was shot like a bullet? And if the butter was in a box, how did anyone get the knife to go “through” it? And does pain that shoots like a knife through butter that Michael has put in a box shoot differently to other kinds of pain?

You know what an old frump Gert is about grammar, so she won’t be reading it. All the same, quite a lot of people must have liked it, because it’s on the shortlist.

3 thoughts on “Keeping your adverbials in their proper place

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