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Cut Unnecessary Prepositions–But Not These

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?

  1. The meeting is already over with.
  2. Where is Dave at today?
  3. The recommendation focuses in on ways to eliminate the budget shortfall.
  4. You will work alongside of Martine today.
  5. Please take this service charge off of my bill.
  6. I don’t know where Christine is going to after work.
  7. Her partner, with whom she spent 27 years with, died last week.

These versions are correct:

  1. The meeting is already over.
  2. Where is Dave today?
  3. The recommendation focuses on ways to eliminate the budget shortfall.
  4. You will work alongside Martine today.
  5. Please take this service charge off my bill.
  6. I don’t know where Christine is going after work.
  7. 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:

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.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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