Tips for Concision: 6. Deflate compound prepositions

Deflate compound prepositions.

Compound prepositions are prepositions on steroids. Instead of being concise and simple, they’re puffed up, like for the purpose of, by means of, and with reference to.

In Plain English for Lawyers, Richard Wydick says they “suck the vital juices from your writing.” He offers some of his least favorites: by virtue of, in relation to, and with a view toward. And in The Grammatical Lawyer, Morton Freeman calls them “drawn-out prepositional phrases” (an apt name). He particularly dislikes during the course of, in terms of, and on the part of.

They’re almost always unnecessary, so deflate them. For example, the compound prepositions in the next sentence can be easily shortened to one word:

  • The attorney spoke to Chris Santiago with regard to (about) the cease-and-desist letter in order to (to) learn its content.

Put them on your editing checklist.


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