The Inside Write Stuff: avoid strings of prepositional phrases

A series of prepositional phrases usually marks a turgid style.

(1) Major litigation increases the obligations of the law department in its reports to management.

(2) Major litigation increases the reporting obligations of the law department to management.

(3) Major litigation increases the law department’s reporting obligations to management.

(4) Major litigation increases the law department’s obligations to report to management.

Variation (2) eliminates one of the three prepositional phrases by inserting an adjective (“reporting”). The next variation takes that approach one step farther and creates two adjectives. In the fourth variation, the lawyer rewrites the prepositional information as an infinitive, which transforms the string of three prepositions.

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