I have a question regarding the following two sentences:

A: Please write using a black pen when providing further information under this section.
B: Please review the document using the latest version of the software XXX.

Are the two sentences grammatically correct?
Based on my linguistic knowledge, I would say the sentences are awkward.

I would say that the sentences should be corrected as follows:
1. Please write with a black pen when ...
2. Please write by using a black pen when ...

1. Please review the document with the ...
2. Please review the document by using the ...

In sum, what I confused about is the structure "S+V using" because someone said that there is nothing wrong with the two sentences.
I just feel like they are grammatically erroneous.
Besides, for me, the sentences do not look like sentences that are transformed into participial constructions.

Hopefully, someone could help me out with this question.
If sentences A and B are grammatically correct, please explain to me why the two sentences are correct syntactically/linguistically.

Thank you very much for your help!

  • 4
    To be picky, I think you want people to use "black ink", not "black pen". E.g. a pen could be black, but contain red ink.
    – Ray Butterworth
    Oct 22, 2019 at 14:30
  • @Ray You are right. But that is not the point that I want to discuss here. Maybe mentioning the pen is not really a good idea because people would like to discuss the usage of pen and ink. Well, let's forget the pen/ink issue first. For the time being, I just want someone who can explain to me whether the sentence structure that I mentioned is grammatically correct or not. Do you have any comments about this question?
    – Larry
    Oct 22, 2019 at 14:59
  • 1
    I strongly disagree that "a (color) pen" is not idiomatic. Strictly interpreted it would be more accurate to say "(color) ink," but I see it written this way (use a black pen) on forms all the time and for me it's quite clear that it refers to the ink color. Maybe this is an American vs. British thing?
    – TypeIA
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:40
  • Both your examples strike me as idiomatic and neither as awkward. You could shorten the first to: Please use a black pen..... without changing the meaning. Oct 22, 2019 at 22:42
  • My wife managed recruitment for a health-related lab job where the ability to strictly follow written instructions was a key part of the required skill set. At the top of the form was printed 'Please complete this form in BLACK ink'. At sift time, guess what happened to the forms completed in blue, green or (yes!) red ink? Nov 23, 2021 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


The phrase, using a black pen is a participle phrase. It modifies the verb write and indicates how the writing is to be done. In that sense, the phrase acts as an adverb.

The sentence can be inverted (but feels less natural) by saying,

Using a black pen, please write when providing further information under this section.

This in part feels awkward because the point of the sentence is to provide information, not to write. It seems more appropriate to say,

Using a black pen, provide further information under this section

The second sentence you ask about feels quite natural to me. I believe it's also grammatically correct for the same reason; Using the latest version of the software XXX is a participle phrase.

But overall, just because a sentence is grammatically correct, does not mean that it is the best sentence to use. As the comments have suggested, other forms seem more appropriate.

  • OP does not have comment privileges. I am posting their comments here. Comment by OP: Thank you for your thorough explanation. Based on your example, the participle phrase is originally an adverb clause, right? If so, there must be an adverb that is omitted to form such a participle phrase. What is the original structure of the following sentence? "Using a black pen, provide further information under this section."
    – AIQ
    Oct 23, 2019 at 5:55
  • Is it By using a black pen, you provide further information under this section? If not, what is the original adverb that is omitted for "_ using a black pen, provide further ..."? I also found an example from the website. It reads "You are able to create a new account on English Language Learner Stack Exchange using a login from Stack Exchange." In this case, the V-ing using also serves as the function of a participle phrase as the other examples that we discussed above, right?
    – AIQ
    Oct 23, 2019 at 5:55

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