This is something I had no idea was even a problem, until the construction was pointed out to me by one of my critiquers. Basically it’s using a phrase for an action, when a single verb will do. Wordiness is the bug-bear of the newbie writer, and this is one sure-fire way to get rid of a goodly number of useless words.
For instance, I had the line “He gave a half-hearted purr,” in my current MS. The ‘gave a’ in this sentence is unnecessary. I can easily substitute “He purred half-heartedly,” for a stronger sentence (admittedly adding an adverb, but what can you do? I had it in the original!).
The list of culprits include (but are probably not limited to): gave (the, a) / giving (the, a) / started to / starting to / began to / beginning to / and came – at.
So, instead of “She gave a wave,” use “She waved,”
- She gave him a look / She looked.
- He started to purr / He purred.
- She began to leave / She left.
- They came charging at / They charged
Note to self; try to be aware of using these constructions, and where possible, strengthen by removal!