Incorrect use of prepostitions


This is for a paper I am doing in an intensive writing class.

See example:

But, my main priority is probably one of the most devastating and saddening problems our bordering country and the U.S are up against.
asked Oct 23 '12 at 02:05 Gabriela Munoz Meza New member

1 answer


Jeff recently mentioned this in passing while responding to another question (fantastically, about whether it is okay to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as but.) It is a mistake perpetuated by well-meaning teachers to believe that an English sentence may not end with a preposition. This incorrect rule has actually been around for several hundred years, having been perpetuated by the poet John Drydon in the 17th century. Drydon based the notion on the use of prepositions in Latin and failed to take into account that English is not a Romantic language.


One of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes is a complaint about this fake rule: "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put!"


That said, your sentence is rather unnecessarily complicated. It is unclear, for example, whether the word "probably" means you are not certain if your main priority is one of the most saddening (and devastating) of our shared problems, or you are not certain that it is your main priority. The only thing "probably" does make certain is that you are not. "Probably" not a good word for a paper.


Unless you have been directed to do so, in academic writing it is unwise to write in first person. I recommend removing self references. (In the same way, you should avoid second person references to the reader. Remember to do this even when second person is only implied.)


More than these complaints, however, is the sentence bloat. You've padded it with words and phrases to make it sound better, but it doesn't. It sounds difficult. Say what you mean to say. If the main point of your essay is x, and you believe x to be a problem shared between the U.S. and Mexico (Canada?), and, further, you believe that x is saddening, then say: The main point of this paper is x. This is a saddening (frustrating, devastating, depressing, despiriting: choose only one) problem that is common to both the U.S. and Mexico.  Do not say "devastating and saddening" when you mean them as synonyms, and do not say "our bordering country" when you mean either Canada or Mexico.

link comment edited Oct 23 '12 at 03:26 mysticete Contributor

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