Which preposition was used earlier?
On the use of prepositions
The other day I read in the introduction to a business administration bachelor thesis that I had received for editing that the following chapter should examine aspects relating to the effectiveness of the new strategy. Much too complicated, I thought spontaneously - but not the task, but the formulation: Why not easy in the following chapter aspects to Examine the effectiveness of the new strategy?
The view that scientific writing means writing demanding and complicated is widespread, as we often find out. This is not only reflected in nested sentences or filler words, but also in the trend towards polysyllabic prepositions. in at on or to are out, within, as to or in terms of are in.
But why is it so complicated? The fact that complex issues need to be clarified does not mean that the language used to do so has to be just as complex. Rather, the language should be particularly clear and precise so that the reader knows exactly what is meant. Sometimes I recommend a client write as simply as possible. This is not meant in the colloquial sense, but in the sense of clear and precise, so that the reader knows what is meant. So you can or should calmly of speak something (not in terms of something) and your opinion to present a position (and not regarding the position).
The problems that we recognize when it comes to prepositions can be classified as follows:
- In scientific texts, more and more often polysyllabic instead of monosyllabic prepositions are used. Legibility and precision of the wording suffer as a result.
- Some prepositions do not match the noun. For example, there is no need to, but only at something.
- Sometimes it is not easy to determine which case to use in a preposition: for example, does it mean “according to the rules” or “according to the rules”?
1. Long and cumbersome - instead of short and precise
Why is it even a problem that short and simple prepositions are increasingly being replaced by long prepositions in bachelor and master theses, above all “regarding”, “regarding” or “within”? I don't mind the length of the terms, but that they are often vague and indefinite. “Critique of a method” means that the criticism is related to the method in some way. It would be much clearer from a review at to speak of the method (or to criticize the method straight away). If a discussion regarding the taxes done could be better above the taxes are discussed. Because if such long prepositions are used too often in a text, it quickly sounds too clauses and what is meant is obscured.
But why is “regarding” or “regarding” used so often? Perhaps there is a reluctance to call things by their names. It is better to leave it in the vague and keep a back door open: You do not express any specific criticism at something, but rather in terms of something. And don't protest against something but regarding a thing. But maybe there is also reluctance to search for the right preposition; perhaps uncertainty as to whether the one found is really the right one.
As I said: this is - mostly - not about right or wrong. It is not always necessary to replace “regarding” and “regarding” with a shorter preposition. They are often at the beginning of a sentence and describe the context in which the following moves: Various examples can be given of this fact. - A heated discussion has broken out regarding the amount of the tax. That sounds plausible - and only after a moment's reflection do you realize that you might get better examples to list this fact and above can discuss the amount of tax.
What has been described also applies to the now almost inflationary use of “within” instead of the simple “in”: it is almost only current within a class informed or action within an organization implemented. I only see a difference here in terms of time: So "within" refers to a time window: The change should be implemented within a year, "In" but at a point in time: Inwe will meet again in a year. Otherwise I don't see any difference in content. It is therefore not clear to me why we are currently so popular or almost only taking measures within a company to be decided or acting within a group is described. I suspect that this is based on the (probably unconscious) equation of short = colloquial or long = scientific. Here “within” can (and should) be replaced by “in”.
My tip: try to use prepositions that are as short as possible. This usually requires a bit of thought, but it increases the precision, lightness and legibility of the text.
Some examples of commonly used prepositions and tips for alternatives:
- Regarding the methodology, it should be mentioned ... → Regarding the methodology, it should be mentioned ...
- Awareness of the sources of error → Awareness of the sources of error
- Doubts about appropriateness → Doubts about appropriateness
- Results regarding the structure → Results regarding the structure
- Criticism regarding the procedure → criticism of the procedure
- Alignment of the method with regard to the question → Alignment of the method with the issue
- This is followed by a statistical evaluation with regard to use. → This is followed by a statistical evaluation of the usage. (Or: The usage is then evaluated statistically.)
- This applies to both the time and the personnel involved. → This applies to the time and personnel expenditure. (Here I have also removed "both ... and" because this seems oversized for the short list. You can read more about this here.)
"in terms of"
- Considerations regarding the procedure → Considerations regarding the procedure
- Note on costs → Note on costs
- Information on income → Information on income
- worry about costs → worry about costs
- Note about the symptoms → Note about the symptoms
- Assistance in managing your finances → Assistance in managing your finances
- inform about the problem → inform about the problem
- Approach to the methodology → Approach to the methodology
- a question about the effort → a question about the effort
- Decision on the measure → a decision on the measure
- Protests regarding the tax increase → Protests against the tax increase
- Opinions on how to proceed → Opinions on how to proceed
- too much noise in the class → too much noise in the class
- within Germany → in Germany
- within the literature → in the literature
"On the part" / "on the part"
- The influence of the media → The influence of the media.
- Measures decided by politicians → Measures decided by politicians
- encounter resistance from the population → encounter resistance from the population
2. Wrong prepositions
Some prepositions are popular and appear regularly in practice, but they are not correct. Here are some examples too:
"Having a need for something"
Sometimes I read: there is a need to something. But it is correct: there is a need at something. "After" is only correct if you have the desire to felt something or a demand to something exists. You can too upon need Spice up.
Bastian describes Sick in a very amusing way herethe sometimes unusual use of the preposition "durch": When cars during a storm by falling trees were hit or a man by a bear was attacked, this is also remarkable linguistically. Because “through” usually means something like “by means of” or “with the help of”. Correct in these examples would therefore be “from”: Trees can only of falling trees and people of Bears are attacked.
I also read this from time to time in academic papers. This also includes the popular ones, for example Highlighting by the authorthat actually from the author originate and should also be referred to as such.
"Through" is sometimes used instead of "due to": I was late because of the traffic jam. The traffic jam is the reason for the delay here. But it is correct: I was late due to the traffic jam. Basically, a process cannot either by involving employees will only be time-consuming due to the involvement of employees.
The preposition “for” is often used as a solution to embarrassment: “for” always seems to fit when there is no other preposition available, and somehow it sounds right. The latter is probably due to the fact that we are used to the “for” as a common preposition from English. Even if "for" is becoming more and more popular, it often sounds unusual, as the following examples illustrate:
- for further information → for further information
- To be interested in something → to be interested in something
- enable learning → enable learning
Incorrect prepositions are also not uncommon in texts - whether you are after something oriented (instead of on something) or whether something matters a lot to Mindfulness plays (instead of in the). It's good that sometimes a preposition can be dispensed with (they are aware of the problems → they are aware of the problems).
3. According to the report / according to the report? The right case
Who doesn't know the book The genitive is death in the dative and his successors? One of Bastian Sick's central theses is that the genitive is being pushed back more and more. With regard to scientific texts, our experience is different: The genitive seems to be used particularly often here - even if a different case (e.g. dative) would actually be correct. But why? Perhaps that's why students choose it so often because they consider it particularly elaborate and therefore well suited for such a demanding type of text as a scientific text?
In the following some of the most important prepositions, for which a wrong case is often chosen.
Dative instead of genitive
The preposition "because" is often formed with the dative in everyday language: because of the wind. For a long time only the genitive was correct: because of the wind. According to Duden (which is still the authority on grammar for many people), dative has also been possible for some time. However, you should still use the genitive in scientific texts.
This is one of the few cases where the genitive is pushed back and the dative is used instead. As mentioned above, in my opinion it is more common to use the genitive case for prepositions that were originally formed with a different case:
Genitive instead of dative
For "dank", the dative case used to be common, derived from: Thanks be to the father and the son. Today the genitive is replacing the dative more and more: thanks to a coincidence.
This also applies to “loud”: it used to be called According to the report (Dative), that's how it is today according to the report (Genitive) possible.
The genitive is often also used for “corresponding”, although only dative is possible here. So it is correct according to the explanations (or: according to the explanations), Not: according to the explanations (Genitive).
This also applies to “according to”: Here too the dative is correct; so it is said according to the rules (Not: according to the rules). This becomes more plausible if you turn the phrase around once: That's according to the rules.
Genitive instead of accusative
The accusative in against better judgment (Not: against better knowledge).
Tips from the editing
The following always causes problems:
(1) What to do if two prepositions (here: “with” and “without”) are placed in front of a noun (“papers”) that require a different case? Is it [called: with and without papers? Let's break it down. “With” requires the dative: with whom or what? With the papers. “Without” requires the accusative: Without whom or what? Without the papers. - You can now write: with the papers and without the papers. That is quite awkward. Shorter is: with the papers and without them. That sounds more colloquial. Another possibility is: with and without papers. Because with two prepositions the case of the noun (the papers) after the last preposition, that is, the one closer to the noun. The other way around it says: with and without papers.
(2) Always tricky (and here already described in more detail): If different things are listed after a preposition, the case always remains the same. We often read sentences like: This takes place through participation in various committees and the exchange of knowledge. "Exchange" here depends on "through". Accusative is correct here: through ... the exchange of knowledge. For the dative that is often used in such sentences (here: the exchange) there is no reason; however, it is often used for some inexplicable reason. If you are unsure, keep the preposition in mind every time: through participation and exchange. Then it becomes clearer.
Literature on prepositions in academic texts
Kornmeier, Martin (2016): Scientific writing made easy for Bachelor, Master and PhD theses. 7th edition. Bern: Haupt (UTB Volume 3154), 271 f.
Ulmi, Marianne; Bürki, Gisela; Concealment, Annette; Marti, Madeleine (2017): Text diagnosis and writing advice. 2nd Edition. Opladen: utb, 148 f.
© Dr. Anette Nagel. Article published in September 2018.
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