Preposition Parade

Critique partners have always been great giving me pages of helpful feedback, but no one ever said “Whoa, you’ve got too many prepositions.” Why would they? We need prepositions in our writing. On the other hand… prepositions can become a problem when you have too many or when they take you down the path of telling instead of showing.

After rewriting, polishing, and generally being consumed by one of my drafts, it was time to face the prepositions head on. It turned in to the most time consuming and technical changes I’ve ever experienced, but in the end it served its purpose by making my writing better. Those sentences are snappier and readers will benefit.  Here’s what I did:

  1. I found sites with lists of prepositions and began to choose the words that I figured were splattered on my 126 page manuscript.
  2. I did a search for them in my story, one at a time using WORD”s search tool.
  3. I read each sentence where they occurred and made a decision whether there was another way to show what was going on or if the preposition could be dropped.

My list consisted of 35 prepositions. The first set below (in caps), frequently lit up pages like New York City at night. It helped to see them in close proximity to each other. Making changes made the text flow smoother.

AROUND-AT-BEFORE-STILL-BUT-ABOUT-ABOVE-ACROSS-AFTER-SINCE-THROUGH-OF-WITH-UP

I’d like to give an example I actually used, but with so many changes it’s hard to come up with an exact one. I tried recreating an example…

I walked around to the back of the store and a black cat startled me as it ran across the alley… Whew, what a mess. Okay, how about…  I went behind the building. Lights flickered warning me to not go forward. A black cat hissed and ran, going out of its way to cross my path. 

This second set below were not as huge of a problem, but by making changes to several pages I could tell there was an improvement.

Against-Along-Behind-Despite-Below-Beside-Between-Down-During-Except-For-From-In/inside-Into-Like-Off-Until-Past-Over-Toward

Example: I went over to her house. That’s an easy fix and could be shortened to I went to her house.

If you would like a PDF download of the Preposition Parade words, click the page below. I’m going to use this list both in my revisions and future writing.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 12.03.46 PM

Snowy 24 hours in Colorado. It’s a good night to get some reading done!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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One Response to Preposition Parade

  1. great post–I always have way too many prepositions in my MS!

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