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What to do About Prepositions

As an editor, I often talk about the symbiotic relationship between the writer and editor. Writers write, and editors edit. Writers need to be creative, and editors need not be creative.

An editor must take what the writer has written and make it publishable. I call this polishing the words.

It is a unique kind of person who can be both a writer and an editor at the same time because the two missions are distinct from one another.


Be creative. Let thoughts flow. Don’t worry about spelling and punctuation; get your thoughts, your words on paper. Thinking about spelling and punctuation interrupts your train of thought which interrupts your continuous flow of writing. When I write, I disregard format and style. When I write, my only concern is to get the words written down, pour out my thoughts first, and then edit them later.


Editors understand the concept of the interrupted train of thought, especially if they are or have been writers themselves. Editors do not expect to be handed a perfectly clean manuscript. An editor’s job is to polish up the manuscript, giving the writer freedom to write as their heart desires.

Writing conventions change regularly, and it is the editor’s job to be current with grammar and punctuation rules. What might have been acceptable one week may not be acceptable next week. For example, there was a time when it was utterly unacceptable to place a preposition at the end of a sentence. Now, it is somewhat acceptable. Some publishers still advocate against the preposition at the end of a sentence, while others feel it is okay if it is necessary to keep a sentence from being awkward. It is up to your editor to stay abreast of these changes of what is and is not acceptable.

What is a Preposition?

A preposition is a word or group of words used before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, location, spatial relationships, or introduce an object. In other words, a preposition tells the reader where something is or when something happens. Examples of prepositions are words like “in,” “at,” “on,” “of,” and “to.”

Example of the proper use of a preposition:

CORRECT: The flowers are in the box.

Example of an unnecessary preposition at the end of the sentence:

WRONG: Where are the flowers at? CORRECT: Where are the flowers?

Sometimes it is better to place a preposition after a noun to ease the awkwardness of avoiding placing the preposition at the end of the sentence:

AWKWARD: To whom are you going to give the flowers? BETTER: Who are you going to give the flowers to?

I encourage writers continue to write and allow editors to continue to edit.

As your editor, I will polish your manuscript until it shines beautifully for publication.

Resource: Write Better, Speak Better ©1972 The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.

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