Editing Tip: Prepositions

Mastering prepositions improves your writing's clarity. This article tackles choosing the right preposition for situations like describing changes in quantity or using gerunds. It clarifies common confusions with "in," "of," "by," "through," and "via" through examples, ensuring your writing is polished and precise.

Updated on April 18, 2024

A preposition is used to link an object with an antecedent to show the relationship between them. Prepositions may be used to indicate location, direction, time, or other details. Sometimes, the appropriate preposition is obvious, but at other times, there are conventions related to usage. For example, in the sentence below, “in” is the preposition linking “selenium content” to “An increase”:

An increase in selenium content (10%) was observed.

The preposition “in” is used appropriately in this sentence because when describing changes in quantity, “in” is used to precede the object being measured (in this case, “selenium content”). However, when a preposition is needed to describe a magnitude in change, the preposition “of” is also needed, as illustrated in the sentence below:

An increase of 10% in selenium content was observed.

In the above example, “in” still precedes the object being measured (selenium content), but “of” precedes the magnitude of change (10%) in that object.

Another tricky situation occurs when the preposition precedes a gerund (a noun form of a verb that ends in “ing” and expresses an action or a state of being). Typically, when preceding a gerund, the preposition should be “by” or “through”, with the former being preferred over the latter. “Via” is not considered appropriate to use in conjunction with a gerund. In the example below, the preposition “by” precedes the gerund “suppressing”.

When treating prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy helps by suppressing testosterone production.

To use “via” in the above sentence, it would need to be edited as follows:

When treating prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy helps via suppression of testosterone production.

For an example of tricky usage involving prepositions, check out this editing tip regarding “due to” and “because of”.

This editing tip will help answer your questions regarding how prepositional phrases relate to subject–verb agreement. 

We hope that today's editing tip will help you to select the optimal prepositions in your writing. As always, please contact us with any questions. We wish you the best in your research and writing endeavors!

Sentence and paragraph structureConcise writingLanguage editingPrepositionClarity in writingWriting a manuscriptAuthor ResourcesGrammar
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