How to Remove the Clutter from Your Writing:
Replacing Compound Prepositions
by Owen Fourie
It happens everywhere. Many people pull together as one team; many parts function together to make one car; many words make one sentence. Many words can be one preposition.
When we think of a preposition, we normally think of one word, but there are compound or phrasal prepositions that are made up of two words or three words and more.
Some of these multi-word prepositions are listed below. This will help you to become familiar with words that normally make up a phrasal preposition.
Use of these multi-word prepositions is not necessarily good writing. Actually, it is better to eliminate them from your writing as much as possible. This article suggests what may be done instead.
Many two-word prepositions are unavoidable. Here are some that are in common use:
|according to||ahead of||apart from|
|as for||as of||as regards|
|as to||aside from||because of|
|due to||except for||in between|
|instead of||outside of||owing to|
|prior to||regardless of||subsequent to|
Avoid “outside of”
Outside is all that needs to be said. Outside of seems to be accepted more readily in the US than in Britain, but it should not appear in formal writing.
Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856—1925) used this phrase in Chapter 3 of Nada the Lily published in 1892:
Some of my people were seated outside of a hut, talking together over a fire.
A compound preposition comprising three words or more can be replaced by a single word or a two-word preposition.
Follow these directions to use the suggestions in the table below:
- Find the compound preposition that you are thinking of using in the first column. (This should not be taken as a complete listing.)
- Consider the proposed replacement for it in the second column.
- Try the replacement in your sentence. In many instances, this will require you to rewrite the sentence.
- Use the proposed replacement only if it works for you and expresses what you mean. If it doesn’t, use the compound preposition, but be careful not to use too many in one essay.
- Try, rather, to rewrite the sentence more simply.
|Simplify Your Writing|
|Instead of||Try using this, or this|
|as a means of||to|
|as well as||and|
|by means of||by, with|
|by reason of||because of|
|by virtue of||because of|
|during the course of||during|
|for the duration of||during|
|for a period of||for|
|for the purpose of||for|
|for the reason that||because|
|for the sake of||for|
|in accordance with||by, under, concerning|
|in addition to||besides, also, additionally|
|in the amount of||for|
|in close proximity to||near|
|in conjunction with||together with|
|in connection with||about, concerning|
|in consideration of||considering, because of|
|in the event of||if|
|in the event that||if, should, in case|
|in excess of||over, more than|
|in favor of||for|
|in the immediate vicinity of||near|
|in lieu of||rather than, instead of|
|in the nature of||like|
|in the neighborhood of||about, approximately|
|in order to||to|
|in reference to||regarding, concerning, about|
|in relation to||concerning, regarding|
|in spite of||despite, notwithstanding|
|in terms of||regarding, concerning, about|
|in view of||because of|
|on account of||because of, owing to, due to|
|on the basis of||because of|
|on behalf of||for|
|on the occasion of||on|
|under the provisions of||under|
|with the exception of||except for|
|with reference to||about, concerning|
|with regard to||about, concerning|
|with respect to||about, concerning|
|with a view to||to|
Avoid “at this point in time” and “in back of”
Avoid the phrase “at this point in time.” Use one of these:
- now (best choice)
- at this time;
- at this point;
- at present.
Avoid the peculiar “in back of.” Use one of these to fit the situation:
- behind (“behind the shed,” if it is outside the shed);
- at the back of (“at the back of the shed,” if it is inside the shed);
- in the back of (“in the back of the car,” if that is where you left your hat).
Eliminate compound prepositions
Now that you are aware of compound prepositions, get rid of them!
…they are almost the worst element in modern English… To young writers the discovery of these forms of speech, which are used very little in talk & very much in print, brings an expansive sense of increased power; they think they have acquired with far less trouble than they anticipated the trick of dressing up what they may have to say in the right costume for public exhibition. Later, they know better, & realize that it is feebleness, instead of power, that they have been developing; but by that time the fatal ease that the compound-preposition style gives (to the writer, that is) has become too dear to be sacrificed. (Fowler, H. W. A Dictionary of Modern English. London: Oxford UP, 1957. Print.)
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