Hi! Nicola Martinez, editor-in-chief for Pelican Book Group. Here with today’s One Minute Editor tip.
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A quick and easy way to tighten sentences is to eliminate instances of the “double preposition.” (If you don’t know all the prepositions, I encourage you to learn them—or keep a list you can easily reference.)
As a quick mnemonic reminder on what a preposition is think of the lion and the bridge. A preposition is anything the lion can do to the bridge*: He can stand behind it, walk on it, swim under it, go around it, over it—even through it, if he’s a magical lion. 🙂 Behind, on, under, around, over, through… these are all prepositions. There are
150 or so in total.
Now run a search for prepositions. In any sentence where there are two prepositions in a row, eliminate one of them wherever possible. For example: John sat down on the couch. The prepositions in this sentence are DOWN** and ON. Cut one of them: John sat on the couch. Another example: She stepped out onto the balcony. The prepositions are OUT and ONTO. Cut one of them: She stepped onto the balcony.
This may seem like a little thing because it doesn’t really change the meaning of the sentence, but eliminating all unnecessary words in each sentence will definitely tighten your manuscript and make it stronger.
I’m Nicola Martinez and this has been your One Minute Editor tip.
*This mnemonic is supplied as an elementary aid to spur the memory. The “what the lion can do to the bridge” theory will not support every preposition.
**some prepositions may be used in other parts of speech. For example, DOWN may be an adverb, adjective, etc. It is used in this example because it directly precedes the preposition ON, and can therefore be cut.