Monday, February 15, 2010

Prepositions Aren't Always Fun

Third grade was an exciting time for me, even though much of my childhood memory is blank. When we got to third grade, we were issued ENGLISH books! I still remember its orange cover and black lettering, and was disappointed that my book was a little ragged on the edges, but I loved its contents.

I was one of those kids who actually LIKED diagramming sentences, and I loved finding all the prepositions because it was a small list of words I could memorize.

But as I became a writer and then an editor, I learned that prepositions aren’t always a writer’s best friend, especially when numerous prepositional phrases are used in a single run-on sentence, like this extreme example:

Looking through the store window on her right during her lunch break, Drucila spotted the dress of her dreams in pale yellow before she pirouetted right there on the sidewalk in broad daylight because she was so happy and in love she could just about die from excitement that tomorrow under the romantic stars she would become Matt’s wife in spite of what their parents said and they would live happily ever after just like in the fairy tales read to her by her mother since she was only a child still in diapers and sucking on a bottle from her crib in the evenings before bedtime.

How many prepositional phrases can you identify?* How many would you remove or change? Yes, this is one of those paragraphs that would probably get scrapped completely – pulling only a few choice nuggets of information from it.

Scan your manuscript. Read it aloud. Focus your words. Tighten. Remember as you write that the reader is not in YOUR head, and can’t see the story unfolding. (This is a very good thing for most of us.) You unfold it for them with logic, clarity, and purpose.

*P.S. There are 22 – did you find them all?

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1 comment:

  1. That's a good exercise, Tracy.

    I think I may over do it on getting rid of prepositions. I sometimes end up with short choppy sentences. I have a thing against ands and buts. I do thing that with certain genres you can get away with more prepositions, such as historical fiction. Chic lit would be less.