Tag Archive - prepositions

Weasel Words: The Cure for Prepositional Phrase-itis

This week editor Linda Clare continues our look at Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words. 

This month, our posts are all about the words writers commonly overuse or use improperly.

Let’s look at how prepositions are abused in fiction and how to fix them.

A prepositional phrase is often a directional or time place-keeper. Common prepositions include in, to, of, from, on, over, under, through, above, and below. Writers use them to help readers imagine scenes more completely. Instead of floating in space, a character stands in the room. She lays her keys on the table and opens a letter from a long-lost lover. When she slumps to the floor, readers are grounded.

It’s difficult to write much of anything without using prepositions. Yet writers often overuse them—just in case readers didn’t get the gist of a sentence the first time. In this case, prepositions become weasel words: they’re unnecessary, distracting, and wordy. A case in point might be a paragraph with a POV character moving through it:

Continue Reading…

A Couple of Things You Should Know

Traditionally, the word couple has been used as a noun meaning “two things.” As a noun, it requires the use of the preposition of to link it to another noun:

  • I only have a couple of dollars.
  • It will take a couple of hours to get this done.

Sometimes writers forget that little preposition, and use couple as an adjective, such as in “I tried a couple times to reach her.”

Bryan Garner, in his American usage book, says, “Using couple as an adjective directly before the noun is unidiomatic and awkward.” Even though many people leave out of, it’s not something a writer should do unless it’s deliberate and in character in fiction. Continue Reading…

More Cool Collocations

Last week I began what looked like the beginning of a long list of collocations. but I promise you, I won’t drag this on forever. For those of you who missed that edifying lesson, a collocation is not a vegetable you steam and eat with butter. A collocation is a word pairing, and there are certain verbs that should be paired with specific prepositions. So here are some more collocations—which might be fun to eat while munching on a green leafy vegetable:

  • Center upon: Center your attention upon his theme.
  • Cause for: This is no cause for alarm.
  • Compatible with: She is not very compatible with her boyfriend, in my opinion.
  • Consideration for: You should have consideration for others.
  • Consideration of: In consideration of the circumstances, maybe you should leave.
  • Depends on: That depends on whether or not he is telling the truth.
  • Depends upon: His life depends upon his telling the truth.
  • Differ from: You differ from me in looks.
  • Differ with: I beg to differ with you.
  • Enamored of: He is enamored of his fiancee (bet you didn’t know this one).
  • Incorrect in: She was incorrect in her answer.
  • Oblivious to: You are oblivious to my needs.
  • You can preside at or over a meeting.

You can now jump at the chance to stop reading this, but don’t jump to conclusions thinking this is the last you’ll hear about collocations. However, rest easy—I am done for now.

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