Overusing Prepositions

It’s important to remember when writing that the way we write is different from the way we speak, and dialogue and descriptive text should reflect those differences. I’m going to talk about dialogue versus descriptive text in a future blog post on this editing hints and tips blog, so keep looking for it, but today, I point it out because I think this mistake of overusing prepositions is because of the way we speak versus the way we write.

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that we should not end sentences with a preposition, but that’s not entirely true. The real rule is not to end a sentence or phrase with an unnecessary preposition.

For example:

Where are you going to?
Where’d you get that from?

These two sentences are able to be re-written grammatically correctly as follows:

Where are you going?
Where’d you get that?

As such, the preposition on the end is simply not necessary and should be excluded.

However, this isn’t the only place prepositions are overused. In a recent novel I edited, I had to remove many prepositions that were superfluous, completely unnecessary for meaning or intent.

For example, we really don’t need to ‘stand up’. We only need to ‘stand’. The ‘up’ part is implied. As such, we don’t need to ‘sit down in the chair’, but rather, ‘sit in the chair’. Now, we can ‘stand down’, but standing down has an entirely different meaning than the opposite of ‘standing up’, doesn’t it?

It’s also possible to ‘sit up’, but only if we had been in a ‘down’ or ‘reclining’ position prior.

We also don’t need to ‘patch up holes’, when all we really have to do is ‘patch holes’. We also don’t need to ‘straighten out’ something, when we can just ‘straighten’ it and do the same thing.

Here’s an example pulled directly from a book I edited:

“…had been in the air for at least five minutes…”

Can be rewritten:

“…had been in the air at least five minutes…”

Another overuse of prepositions I frequently see are ‘double prepositions’ to mean the same thing. For example:

“Put that up on the shelf.” (upon would work)

“He almost fell out onto the floor.” (Possible fixes: He almost fell out, landing on the floor. He almost fell out of the chair, onto the floor. I think you get my drift here…?)

Then there’s the unnecessary directional prepositions that are unnecessary because the intent is already clear in the sentence.

Then there’s one like this:


“Crying with tears of joy….”

Unless the tears are also crying their own tears, this really isn’t grammatically correct.

Rewrite as:

“Crying tears of joy…”

Now, when people are speaking, dialogue, sometimes prepositions like this should be used, for dialect, emphasis, personality quirks, speech patterns, etc. However, in the descriptive text, non-spoken parts, when you make your final edits and proofs of your writing, try to remove any superfluous prepositions.

It will make your writing more concise, stronger and less casual, providing a better experience for your reader and reducing your overall word count of your story in the descriptive text part of your writing.

Any questions?

Love and stuff,