The Preposition Placement Rule You May Be Misusing

by | Nov 18, 2015 | Writing Tips | 0 comments

With the rise of texts, Tweets, and other casual communication, it’s easier than ever for writers to find style and grammar errors to gripe about. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, at some point you’ve commented on an error only to learn that it is no longer considered an absolute mistake. Take ending sentences with prepositions, which some content writers swear is never okay.

This preposition placement misstep used to be one of my pet peeves, but did you see how the first sentence of this blog ended? Apparently, I’m a shameless hypocrite, or I’m about to make the case that ending sentences with prepositions isn’t always unforgivable.

When to Stick to the Preposition Placement Rule

It’s preferable to avoid stranding prepositions at the end of sentences if you can reasonably use them elsewhere. If a preposition only sounds natural at the end of the sentence, ask yourself whether you can get rid of it without changing the meaning of the sentence. A redundant preposition doesn’t need to be included in the sentence, and it definitely shouldn’t act as the caboose.

– While her friends made fun of the sleeved blanket, the writer secretly wondered where she could get one from.

– I typically stay in shape around the holidays by going shopping and then wandering for hours after forgetting where my car is parked at.

When to Make Exceptions

In many cases, cutting out a sentence-ending preposition isn’t an option. If you’re creative enough, you probably can contort any sentence to keep the preposition away from the end. However, this isn’t strictly necessary if the new sentence sounds ridiculously formal or like something that people would have said centuries ago.

– The roots of “preposition” — ‘prae,’ meaning before, and ‘ponere,’ meaning put — show where this writing convention comes from.

– Many writers procrastinate, even though they know it is a decision they will eventually pay for.

A Few Final Pointers

In formal writing, it doesn’t hurt to leave prepositions in their traditional places, since some people still consider this rule golden. For other purposes, know that it’s okay to break the rule in order to avoid writing awkwardly.

Are there other writing rules that you frequently see broken or have questions about? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

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