Le Hai
Is is appropriate to use "Sth V-ing" as a subject in academic writing?

Hello everyone, I've just signed up and in my first post, I'd love to hear you opinion on a grammatical problem I 've been having for quite some time.


The thing is, I have a tendency to write a sentence like this: "Sth V-ing is...". For example, if I am about to write a paragraph to prove that tobacco products should be banned, I would open like this: "Tobacco products not being allowed to circulate in the market can be beneficial for some reasons." instead of writing: "Not allowing tobacco products to circulate in the market can be beneficial for some reasons." From my point of view, 2 sentences have the same meaning, but the first one would use more complex grammatical range, so I want to use it. In another instance, when I want to write about the advantages when companies allow workers to work from home, I write: "Workers being allowed to work from home can be beneficial for some reasons."


But some native speakers tell me that writing sentences like that can be risky because it can lead to a misunderstanding. For example, in the sentence: "Tobacco products not being allowed to circulate in the market can be beneficial for some reasons." they may think "Tobacco products which are not allowed to circulate in the market can be beneficial." which contradicts my point of view because then, they will understand that tobacco products can be beneficial.


What do you think about this situation? Should I come back to the simple way I used to write to avoid being misunderstood or should I stick with the new way of writing to improve my grammatical range?

Dec 23, 2015 12:22 PM
Comments · 5

I agree with Peachey.  I recommend this format : 


-ing (gerund) + noun phrase


e.g. a. Restricting the circulation of tobacco products can be beneficial for a number of reasons.


e.g. b. Allowing employees to work from home can be beneficial for various reasons.


Starting a negative sentence with not + ing .... is possible, but from the point of view of style, I recommend choosing an antonym, like I did in example a.

December 23, 2015

I think the most important thing is clarity. This applies to any writer, from a beginner learner to a native-speaking novelist.  If you use a grammatical form which creates a confusing or unclear sentence, that will certainly work against you.


Yes, your example sentence is confusing. Definitiely avoid it! I'm sure you can find other sentences which use the participle-clause grammar and remain clear.

December 23, 2015

I think your problem is that you are creating a complex subject for your sentence with this construction :


noun + -ing + object noun 


I don't know if I can say that this is ungrammatical but it is not natural and I don't do it.  If you stick with my proposed method, you could write : 


"The eating of animals by people is not against nature" , or more simply


"Eating animals is not unnatural". 


For me, this construction works every time.

December 23, 2015

People think that writing academic articles mean you have to show that you are really clever. In fact, you have to use simpler writing to make lots of people understand your writing.


So,if you use a slightly complex sentence as in "People eating animals is not against nature", it's not exactly wrong but your message is not brought across easily to the reader.


Just think about who are the academics who write and present really well. Do they make their message complicated by using complicated grammar or do they make their message simple and easy to understand?



December 23, 2015

thanks for both of your extremely helpful advice. But what if I write that kind of sentence in some particular contexts when it is really hard to be misunderstood? Is it then appropriate in academic writing? For example, what about this sentence: "People eating animals is not against nature."

December 23, 2015