When you cut words to make your business writing more concise, be sure to keep the prepositions you need. Some prepositions bring structure and clarity to your sentences. Learn which ones below.
A client wrote to me asking whether he needed to use the prepositions in these sentences:
We finished on December 2, 2015.
The new project will begin in February 2016.
He wanted to write:
We finished December 2, 2015.
The project will begin February 2016.
Cutting those prepositions is a bad idea. They did not “finish December 2”–it finished itself. And the project will not “begin February.” February will simply begin. The sentences need those little prepositions.
These expressions also need their prepositions, according to The Gregg Reference Manual and Garner’s Modern American Usage:
“depart from”: The plane departs from Heathrow at noon. (not “departs Heathrow”)
“type of”: Which type of wine do you prefer? (not “type wine”)
“couple of”: Just a couple of members have not yet renewed. (not “couple members”)
“graduate from”: Did he graduate from NYU? (not “graduate NYU”)
Also, be sure to keep prepositions in each part of a series if the preposition changes:
He has appeared on stage, in films, and on television.
Use just one preposition when it applies to every element in the series:
He has appeared in films, plays, and commercials.
Which prepositions can you cut? Each of the sentences below has an extra preposition. Can you recognize and eliminate it?
- The meeting is already over with.
- Where is Dave at today?
- The recommendation focuses in on ways to eliminate the budget shortfall.
- You will work alongside of Martine today.
- Please take this service charge off of my bill.
- I don’t know where Christine is going to after work.
- Her partner, with whom she spent 27 years with, died last week.
These versions are correct:
- The meeting is already over.
- Where is Dave today?
- The recommendation focuses on ways to eliminate the budget shortfall.
- You will work alongside Martine today.
- Please take this service charge off my bill.
- I don’t know where Christine is going after work.
- Her partner, whom she spent 27 years with, died last week. (OR: Her partner, with whom she spent 27 years, died last week.)
These blog posts answer more questions about prepositions:
- Rules From Grade School, on ending a sentence with a preposition.
- Words to Capitalize in Titles and Headings, with tips on which prepositions to capitalize.
- Start Sentences With Any Word You Want, reminding you that prepositions can go anywhere.
- Nouns in a Stream–What Do They Mean?, reminding you of the value of prepositions to guide your readers.
Preposition trivia: Do you know the longest one-word preposition? I just found a preposition that is longer than the one I would have guessed. I’ll share it later on.