The basics: prepositional phrases

Why use prepositional phrases?

Prepositions specify a relationship between words. Most often the relationship is time (like during, throughout, until, before, since, after), or space (like in, under, over, through, between, above, across, below, around, by, on).

Phrases made with prepositions provide detail. For example:

Quarter 1 sales results in the three rural districts are running behind on-time delivery goals but above revenue expectations.

What goes wrong?

Two things.

  1. Prepositional phrases might add more detail than the sentence needs.

For example, this sentence:

On Saturday, in the sales meeting  to discuss Q1 results, we will seat the division managers at a small table  on a dais  at the front  of the room.

can be cut to this sentence:

Saturday, we will seat the division managers at the front  of the room.

While the eliminated phrases did add detail, it isn’t needed detail. Either the reader already knows the information (the fact that there is a sales meeting, that the meeting is about Q1 results) or doesn’t need the information (the size of the table or the existence of a dais in the room) now or perhaps at all.

2. Prepositional phrases might hijack your intended meaning for another topic, entirely.

For example, this sentence starts as an explanation of seating and becomes an explanation for the table set-up:

Saturday, we will seat the division managers at the front of the room at a table with a microphone  at the center  of the table, whose wires should be zip-tied to the legs  of the table and hidden by a logo-embossed tablecloth.

The fix

Trimming out any vague, repeated, or unneeded prepositional phrases keeps sentences on point.