Friday, February 26, 2010

PRE-position-ED for Failure by Robert W. Walker

Can it be that Prepostional Phrases and Preps themselves are Deep-Sixing Your Sentences?  It is quite possible. This is one of the ten paths to confusion and the #1 Sin in writing is being UNclear.  Preps are all the directional words -- up for instance, a word that 99% of the time can be tossed without a second thought and the sentence works perfectly well with out it.  I stood, I stood.  Other directionals are: in, down, before, below, above, around, over, under, through, to, toward, and I think the word for comes into play as does into.  These are useful in and of themselves but when you string three or more back to back, they create a bloated sentence, and if you have a string of two or three prepostional phrases in the same sentence, whammo, it gets unwieldy fast.

Picture a grid with a continum from begiing of the sentence to end....Subject/Uppercase  -- Verb -- Object.
Prepositons normally come into play in the pre-position before the Subject position or before the object position (thus pre-position).  Thus we get such phrases AFTER the verb as these:  to whom it concerns...
for whom are you waiting....from whom all blessiings God we trust, etc.

Here is an example of a sentence bloated with prepostional phrases followed by a corrected version:

In the house on 9th street up over the hill beyond the white gate, Mark saw her through the curtained window below the awnings where Serena stood bathed in sunlight that filtered through her hair and reflected in his eye.

In the hosue/on 9th/up over the hill/beyond the white gate....all 4 prepositions BEFORE we get to Mark, the actor and his action....then after the action we get added on prepostionals: through the window/below the awnings/in sunlight/through her hair/in his eye --for a total of 5 more preps.  What is lost in a morass of prepositonal phrases is Mark, his action, and the object of his interest--Serena.

Do we need all these asides, all this added detail?  Some yes, some no.  Revised:

Beyond the white gate, Mark saw Serena through the curtained window where sunlight bathed her hair and reflected in his eye.

I just think a great serpentine sentence is wonderful when it works but not if it relies on a string atop a string of prepositionals like within she stood....and the worst offender at end of so many sentences and totally unneeded -- the dreaed TO ME.  And as I mentioned the usually useless UP as in up over....Over says it all.

Does it make sense?  I hope so.
OK, now get on out of the classroom and go enjoy some real sunlight and nature!

I am posting a challenge, however, to anyone and everyone to watch me publicly write my next novel at  Dirty Deeds - Mystery/Suspense Author's Advice wherein I am keeping a Julia&Julia styled Journal in which I set myself the task of a finished novel in a year.  You can lurk, comment, toss in questions and enter a contest soon to be placed there, a contest for an Alternative Title to my workign title on this work in progress, PlagueShip Titanic. Winner gets signed copy of one of my published books. At same time you get some professional whose shoulder you can look over the entire proceess.  Hope to see you there. You can find the url at my website --

Happy Writing Days -- Rob


Morgan Mandel said...

I was just going through my work in progress this morning before I read this. I found sunlight shining down from a skylight and axed the word, down. It's amazing how many instances you can find on the 2nd, 3rd or more edit.

Morgan Mandel

Mike Dennis said...

Eliminate prepositions? That is something up with which I will not put! It's a task out for which I am not cut!

Kim Smith said...

Great post! Thanks for the lesson!