The Preposition Quotient.
In lean writing, it's a good idea to minimize prepositional phrases. In flabby prose, a ratio of one preposition for every four words is common; in better, leaner writing, the quotient is more like one preposition for every 10-15 words.
Five editorial methods can tighten sentences marred with too many prepositions.
- The prepositional phrase can be deleted as surplusage; for example, it's often possible in a given context to change a phrase such as "senior vice president of the corporation" to "senior vice president" -- if the corporate context is already clear.
- Uncovering buried verbs often eliminates as many as two prepositions each time; thus, "is in violation of" becomes "violates."
- It's sometimes possible to replace a prepositional phrase with an adverb; so "she criticized the manuscript with intelligence" becomes "she criticized the manuscript intelligently."
- Many prepositional phrases resolve themselves into possessives; thus, "for the convenience of the reader" becomes "for the reader's convenience."
- And finally, a change from passive voice to active often entails removing a preposition; so "the ball was hit by Jane" becomes "Jane hit the ball."
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