Friday, December 23, 2005

Sentence problems 1--excessive prepositions

What's wrong with this sentence?
  • A knowledge of correct trial procedure is the duty of all of the members of the bar of this state.
It has too many prepositions and is choppy and annoying to read.

Try this:
  • All the state's bar members must know correct trial procedure.
Watch your sentences and see if you use too many prepositions.

Here is a real sentence my sister sent me. A lawyer wrote it:
  • There is no current estimate of the number of boxes of records in possession of the schools.
If you were asked to comment on this sentence, you might simply say "awkward." Indeed it is awkward, but now you know specifically why: too many prepositions.

So let's put an actor in the sentence and rewrite to avoid excessive prepositions:
  • We have not estimated how many boxes of records the schools have.
That's better--5 prepositions down to 1.

--Excerpted from Better Legal Writing

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