Saturday, March 15, 2014



Prepositions are useful but overdoing them unconsciously makes for sludgy reading. Four (4) consecutive prepositional phrases in one sentence may be too many. There are times when even two or three slow down your writing.

A prepositional phrase is a group of words that begins with a preposition, ends with a noun or a pronoun, and answers a question such as “Which one?” “What kind” “How?” “Where?” or “When?”

There are times you might want to string things out for effect. Doing it unintentionally will not strengthen your writing.

The boat sailed on the water of the harbor behind the breakwater down at the bay.

Chances are the following version will carry your reader forward faster and easier. There are details the reader will deduce without your help.

The boat sailed into the bay behind the breakwater.

As you can see, eliminating the excessive PPCs can contribute to both more efficient and more effective writing and reduce unnecessary wordiness. 

Common Prepositions:

- about, above, across, after, along, among, around, at
- before, behind, below, beside, between, by
- down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into
- of, off, on, over, thought, to, toward
- under, until, up, upon, with, without

Use your "Find" function (e.g. Set the Find for "of" and Set "find whole words") to check your prepositional use.

How would you rewrite the following two sentences for efficiency and effectiveness?

Jerry pulled into the driveway at the side of the house on the street where his mother used to live. (5 PPC’s)

A thud sounded from the kitchen next door to the study in the house she’d bought in Smithtown, a town to the north of Hartford. (7 PPC’s)


  1. 1, Jerry pulled into the driveway beside his mother's old house.
    2. Sitting in the den her breath caught in her throat. She listened to the loud thud in the kitchen, but she was alone. She questioned her decision to buy a house in Smithtown. (Or leave that whole last sentence out, by now we should know where she is.)
    Tough ones. But I don't like those long, confusing sentences so I doubt I would write them. Great post.

  2. There you go. Taking out the confusion is easy. Good job.

  3. Yep - that was my task last weekend! They are pretty sneaky. :)

  4. Good going, Lorraine! It's quite satisfying to find and eliminate and see how much stronger a sentence is without superfluous prepositional phrases isn't it? Did you count before and after to see what your "catch" count was?

  5. The elimination of those pesky prepositions really does make an incredible difference to the clarity of these sentences.