Trimming fat OR Cutting extra prepositions on out of your writing

On out of? How about just out of?

Sanford Allen a man of many types of fame — music, journalism and fiction among them — and whose musings can be followed at, once offered a tidbit of writing advice that could have easily slipped by unnoticed.

Good for me I am experienced and as wise as the soaring eagle.


The advice was this (and, dammit, I’m paraphrasing):

If you’re using more than one preposition in a clause, try to kill one of them sombitches.

Okay. It’s not going to make or break your story, but since it’s something that probably crops up in everything you’re ever going to write, over time, it’s golden. Still not convinced, you selfish bastard? Well, imagine eyelets on a tennis shoe — those little metal rings you string laces through. You could make a lace-up shoe without them but I think that if I ever found myself forced at gunpoint to craft awesome shoes I wouldn’t.

So, back to prepositions.

Why should it matter if you’re using two instead of one preposition? Don’t we look up at the stars? And wasn’t English so sure of itself that it combined on and to into onto? Yes and those are good examples of when a preposition following another is cool. When it’s not cool is in sentences like “The army moved on into the woods” and “The UFO lifted up off the ground.” Sometimes the better solution is to scrap BOTH prepositions. Rewrite “He reached in after the rabbits” as ” He reached for the rabbits.”

It’s almost always better to change “in between” to just “between” It says the same thing and is leaner.

I’m sure you hear double prepositions in conversation all the time but you’re a dick — or an instructor (who is possibly a dick) — if you point it out. But when it comes to writing, you’re almost always better off sticking with just one preposition. Of course, if you’re trying to make a character sound authentic, go for it.

As with anything else in writing — or any endeavor, for that matter — there are no absolutes. In the immortal and often short words of former-Pres., George W., “[You are] the decider.”

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