Crafting Readable Content – The Preposition Rule Debunked
Growing up with a father who was a writer and an editor for a major metropolitan newspaper had its challenges, but I certainly learned some lessons when it came to speaking and writing the language.
His biggest pet peeve was never ending a sentence with a preposition. I had a bad habit of asking, “where’s it at” when inquiring about the location of my baseball mitt, football helmet, or swimming suit and my father would always correct me by pointing out that you simply need to say, “where is it”. The “at” was a stranded preposition and totally unnecessary.
The word ‘preposition’ ultimately derives from Latin prae, meaning ‘before’ and ponere, meaning ’to place’. In Latin grammar, the rule is that a preposition should always precede the prepositional object that it’s linked with: it’s never placed after it.
To this day, the disdain of improper preposition usage is shared throughout the English-speaking community. It seems like the issue of proper preposition is just another black and white grammatical rule.
But, is this always true? Despite my father’s very explicit advice all those years ago, I’ve found some irregularities with the preposition rules. For example, if you’re aiming to always abide by the strict rules of prepositions, you end up with this:
The Tennis match was rained out.
Preposition before noun or pronoun
Rained out the tennis match was.
As you can see, the “correct” use of the preposition makes the speaker sound like Yoda from ‘Star Wars’ whereas the sentence ending with a preposition sounds more grammatically sound.
In marketing, adhering to strict grammatical principles isn’t necessarily a rule to be followed. If you are writing every sentence using million dollar grammar and impressive vocabulary, you are focusing too much on how the reader is perceiving YOU instead of how your content is benefiting THEM.
Of course, I am not advocating speaking broken English in advertisements or blogs. However, finding that line between grammatical proficiency and a conversational tone allows you to maximize your communicative abilities.
When it comes to communicating effectively with your audience, sometimes using a more casual, easy tone conveys more intimacy and cultivates higher brand trust than speaking like a tenured English professor.
So when it comes down to the prepositional issue, use good judgment. If it reads or sounds like a Jedi master from a galaxy far, far away, you probably need to re-think the use of the preposition in your prose or discussion. As you can see, “right” isn’t always better, so enhance your communication by bending the rules a little bit.