Which of these is grammatically correct and considered as a formal writing style?

The book tells the story, consisting of X, Y, and Z.


The book tells the story, which consists of X, Y, and Z.

  • 2
    Both are ok, but is there some reason you don't want to say more simply, "the book tells the story of X, Y, and Z"? – Andrew Jan 21 '17 at 23:28
  • Agree. The phase @Andrew proposes is superior to either of the two proposed phrases in the question, both of which are awkward although probably not strictly speaking incorrect. – ohwilleke Jan 21 '17 at 23:35
  • Thank you for the answers. You are right that Andrew's sentence is more simple. I just wanted to focus on the differences between "which + verb" and "verb+ing" in a sentence. Thus, I wrote an example randomly. – 7447 Jan 21 '17 at 23:53
  • @7447 it's okay plenty of people write in ways that aren't completely perfect. Of course there are any number of ways to say this in a long and convoluted fashion if you want. – Andrew Jan 22 '17 at 0:14

As the other answer and the comments say, your two sentences are both OK and mean the same thing.  But you should also be aware that “which + verb” and “verb+ing” are not always interchangeable.  For example,

This picture shows a cat, which eats meat:
          cat, posing for photo

This picture shows a cat, eating meat:
     cat eating meat
     (Original image source: http://www.cancats.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/can-cats-eat-pork-insert.jpg)

The +ing form refers to actions that are happening right now, while the simple present tense (“which eats”) is a general, enduring reference to normal, frequent, and habitual actions.  These forms are discussed in these questions:

and others.


Short answer: both are fine, and more or less equally awkward ways to phrase that sentence. But as I mentioned in the comments, there are many native speakers who use many words to say something, when they could get away with one or two.

The simpler way to say this is:

the book tells the story of X, Y, and Z

but I understand that sometimes there is a reason to include "consisting of" or "which consists of". Again, either is equally fine.

Of course you could be even more verbose:

the book tells a story, consisting of various elements, which include the following: X, Y, and Z.

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