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Have you ever written something, stepped back, and thought: there’s got to be a better way to say this?

Or maybe you always get to that clear, concise, elegant place (you know it when you see it), but it takes you hours.

If so, I’ve been in your shoes.

But after years of full days critiquing my own writing and editing lots of other people’s, I’ve figured out a few shortcuts – things I always check for first.

If you ever find yourself in the position of needing to deploy a press release, newsletter, announcement, blog, or social media post YESTERDAY, these should help.

I’m sharing three of my favorites, one week at a time.

 

Week 1: Edit for Preposition Bloat

When’s the last time you thought about the preposition?

High school English class, maybe?

Most people can recall the rote grammar rule “don’t end a sentence with a preposition,” but that’s not really the most important thing to remember about this part of speech.

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a screen, struggling to rework a complex and confusing sentence, there’s a strong chance you’ve experienced something worse: preposition bloat.

And preposition bloat is something everyone’s writing would be better off without.

(see what I did there?)

 

What is preposition bloat?

In writing, it manifests as double-jointed, meandering, hard to follow statements packed with too many prepositions – which are relationship words like to, in, on, from, and especially of.

 

Why is this a big deal?

Try to quickly name the great grandson of the mother of your father’s sister’s uncle. Do you need a pen and paper to chart it out?

Most people do. Our brains aren’t wired to visualize super-complex relationships, so preposition-bloated writing takes a ton of effort to read and comprehend.

And so when they encounter a sentence with more than two or three relationship words (prepositions), most readers will either: 1.) read it several times to fully process what you’re saying, or 2.) just skim it and miss your point.

 

How to edit for preposition bloat

First, you’ll need to flag prepositions in your writing. You can download a printable list here. Print it out, stick it on your wall, and you’ll be good.

Then try to edit the unnecessary ones out. The key here is not to chip away at your message, but rather to distill it, making it more clear.

 

Example:

In this tutorial you’ll find a demonstration of techniques for eliminating preposition bloat through the process of editing your writing with care in a short amount of time when you’re under the pressure of a deadline.

My grammar checker likes it. But I think we can all agree it’s less than a pleasure. Here’s how to trim it down:

And here’s the edited version:

Under pressure? This tutorial will show you how to quickly and carefully kill preposition bloat.

If you’re hoping your readers will become your customers someday, be nice and give them the edited version. Exceptional customer service starts very early on.