Axe Those Prepositional Phrases

I often remind student writers to write clearly, concisely, with clarity. A reader shouldn’t need to guess what the writer means. Right? Yes. And no. Prepositional phrases can make a prose passage too exact by providing redundant information. A famous example is: The man put his hat on his head. We then ask, “Where else would he put a hat? On his elbow?” Or this: He walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, still thinking about the turkey sitting in the kitchen.

Writing Tip for Today: A prepositional phrase often gives directional information, and writers do want their readers to undertsand where things are in a scene. By learning to spot redundant prepositional phrases in your work, you’ll write more clearly without boring the reader. Here’s another example: Mum locked herself in the bedroom for what seemed like endless periods of time. When she did come out, it was only for short periods of time before I’d see her body begin to fold over . . .”
The writer intends to be clear but only succeeds in repeating words. When you revise, ask yourself if a prepositional phrase is necessary to orient the reader or if it is redundant.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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