Eliminating prepositions for smoother writing

This week we consider prepositions. Good writing flows smoothly—sort of like Bing Crosby’s voice (for those of you too young to remember Bing, think Norah Jones). One way to enhance smoothness is by minimizing prepositions.

Prepositions are words (or word groups) that show relationships between sentence elements. “Of,” “in,” and “to” are the most common prepositions. Other common prepositions include “from,” “over,” “by,” “through.” (TIP: If the word fits into this sentence—“I ran ___ the house”—then it is a preposition.)

Prepositions are useful—even indispensable. But too many prepositions create choppy, disjointed sentences that are unpleasant to the ear—sort of like Paris Hilton’s voice.

Let’s consider some examples:

  • The judge of the circuit court ordered the plaintiff in the case to file with the court a notebook of all the exhibits of the plaintiff to be used at trial.
  • The circuit court judge ordered the plaintiff to file a notebook containing the plaintiff’s trial exhibits.

The first example is a mess—hopelessly choppy and difficult to read. The second example is both clearer and shorter. The difference is that the second example isn’t burdened with the numerous prepositions that clog the first example.

The lesson? Pay attention each time you write “of,” “to,” or “in,” and consider whether you can word things differently and eliminate the preposition.

That is all for now …

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