The etching of poly(methyl methacrylate) using pulses of 248 nm laser radiation which had a full width at half maximum (FWHM) of 40–100 ns is reported. These pulses were created by combining two identical pulses, each of 40 ns FWHM, with a set time delay. The etch depth/pulse is sensitive to the pulse width and, therefore, the power density in this polymer. It can be explained by the changes in absorptivity during a pulse that have been reported by G. M. Davis and M. C. Gower [J. Appl. Phys. 61, 2090 (1987)]. The shape of the pulse was also found to influence the etch depth/pulse. The etching of polyimide by these extended pulses shows trends that are opposite to those observed in poly(methyl methacrylate). In this instance, the shielding of the latter portion of the incoming pulse by the products that are ablated by the front portion is probably a serious effect.