Breaking Free From Unnecessary Prepositions


This is yet another professional writing post on how to make your words work for you. Specifically, we’re dealing with unnecessary prepositions today.

Rather like “that” and “of,” prepositions just aren’t always needed. And also like “that” and “of,” they can actually slow down your copy, making it less appealing and therefore toying with your readers’ desire to continue being your readers.

For anyone who needs a quick refresher in prepositions, unnecessary or otherwise, they’re those lovely little relationship-oriented words such as:

  • About

  • Above

  • Along

  • Around

  • Behind

  • Besides

  • Down

  • During

  • On

  • Over

  • Through

  • Toward

  • Under

  • With.

Prepositions are important parts of speech. Very important! Until they’re not.

Blame it on modern trends in the English language, but there are just times when prepositions tend to sound – and even be – unnecessary.

Take the sentence: I entered into marriage honestly thinking it was going to be all roses and rainbows, smooches and sunshine.

Overall, that sentence is very casual and engaging. It mentions “honestly,” a personally-based word choice that makes it seem more conversational than professional. In much the same way, the word “all” is completely unnecessary from a grammatical standpoint. It only serves to dress up the sentence from an emotional standpoint.

Then there’s the “roses and rainbows, smooches and sunshine” part. Nobody but nobody says “smooches” if they’re trying to put together a no-nonsense professional writing piece. It just does not happen.

They would probably write out something like this instead: I entered into marriage believing it was filled with nothing less than romance and magic.

Which makes for a pretty decent sentence that way, if I do say so myself. Even so, it’s much more suitable for certain types of professional writing, such as a marriage or psychology essay, or maybe the opening lines of an article composed to discuss victims of domestic abuse.

But if the professional writing piece in question is destined for an online news article, most kinds of blog posts or any number of other perfectly legitimate but less “proper” publications, you’re better off keeping it conversational.

Which means there’s no probably no place for “into” in that context. Cut it out.

I entered marriage honestly thinking it was going to be all roses and rainbows, smooches and sunshine.

See? Doesn’t that read a bit smoother?

Only a bit though, you might point out. In which case, you’d be right. One single “stuffy” sounding unnecessary preposition isn’t going to kill your whole copy. But it could if you use three. Or five. Or 11.

Even two sentences with unnecessary prepositions can kill an online news article, most kinds of blog posts or any number of other perfectly legitimate but less “proper” publication… particularly if they’re right in a row.

If you followed up that “into” sentence with something like: Clearly, I missed out on a key fact of married life. instead of: Clearly, I missed a key fact of married life., it could send your readers running for the hills.

And this time, there’s no “only a bit though” argument to be made, believe it or not.

Readers these days are utterly inundated with information and resources. Which means they’ve got options. Plenty of them. Not to mention exceptionally short attention spans.

In order for professional writers of any kind to obtain and maintain a readership, they have to cater to their audience down to the last word – or at least every other one.

So, as always, carefully consider the readers you want while you’re writing. And if they’re the type to prefer casual, engaging and conversational copy, check for unnecessary prepositions. Then cut ‘em out.

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