Avoiding Excess

If, as William Zinsser argues in On Writing Well, “Clutter is the disease of American writing,” then complex prepositions are among the culprits. These word groups often crowd out simple prepositions, lengthening the time it takes to reach the preposition’s object. Why state that the Friend Center is located “in the vicinity of” the Engineering Quadrangle when one can say it is “near” the EQuad?  Why is “prior to” superior to “before”?

In The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage, the prolific British writer Kingsley Amis takes aim at a prime offender, namely, “in excess of”:

“This dreadful little cluster has somehow insinuated itself into serious contexts in which precise quantities are bandied about. Where it was once considered careful enough to write of temperatures in the 80s or over 80° it now seems requisite to talk about temperatures in excess of 80 degrees. If over is somehow ruled out, more than will do, anything to avoid this fussy piece of pseudo-accuracy which contributes nothing but length and a fraudulent scientistic glow. I think I once heard talk about a dose of some opiate of up to in excess of so many grains, but am probably imagining things.”

And then there are prepositions that can be dispensed with altogether, as in these examples:

David met “up with” Nicole after class versus David met Nicole after class.

Where did the provost go “to”? versus Where did the provost go?

Both “of the” students belonged to Tiger Inn versus Both students belonged to Tiger Inn.

Where is Lowrie House “at” exactly? versus Where is Lowrie House exactly?

In short, why use additional words when one or none will do?