writers resources / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #30: Too Many Prepositional Phrases is Bad

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Don’t string one prepositional phrase after another in an effort to be erudite.
Don’t string them together in an effort to add color to your writing.

She jogged down the street by the brook in the darkness with no flashlight.

Argh. I’ve lost track of the action in the sentence.

Unless, as Gordon Silverstein at the University of Minnesota says, you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-6 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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4 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #30: Too Many Prepositional Phrases is Bad

  1. Might I request a rephrase of the above example? It does highlight the mistake, but it leaves the solution a mystery. There are many ways it could be improved, but a few demonstrations could spice up the lesson!

    • Something like this:

      Marna stifled a yelp as she tripped over a rock, almost falling into the brook she could here rippling to her left. She froze, listened for five seconds, five more, and then hurried onward. No moon meant her attacker couldn’t find her, but neither could see a d*** thing.

      Now the reader knows more about the character, the setting, and the plot without feeling like they needed to diagram the sentence.

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