Greatly Improve Your Manuscript by Reducing One Word

by | Writing | 22 comments

Of is a preposition, and although not an inherently evil word, overusing it can make your writing sound passive and fussy.— Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl)

image by seadog

image by seadog

In a recent post, I promoted the word processor Find feature to eliminate weak words and phrases. On my own manuscript, I discovered reducing one particular word greatly improved my novel in three ways:

  1. Eliminated wordiness
  2. Created smoother reading
  3. Alerted me to other problems
image by meineresterampe

image by meineresterampe

The word is the preposition of. This preposition usually totes unnecessary words wherever it surfaces.

Before I reduced of-use, my manuscript hosted 1.3 occurrences in every 100 words.

After reducing the preposition, every 100 words contained only .4 incidences.

And the exercise tightened and reduced my word count by 2.4%.



These 21 examples show the of-usage types I encountered and how I rewrote the phrases.

Amount and Number


id-10055268.jpg1.  Wordy: cleaned every trace of dirt from the ball.

Rewrite: She scrubbed the ball.

2.  Wordy: stared at the ball for a couple of beats

Rewrite: stared at the ball for a moment…

3.  Wordy: I have a couple of clients in…

Rewrite: I have clients in…

4.  Wordy: From all of Margie’s comments

Rewrite: From Margie’s comments…

5.  Wordy: done in plenty of time to…

Rewrite: done in time to…


Image courtesy of stockimages at

Image courtesy of stockimages at

6.  Wordy: A lot of gossip about the female caddy was…  

Rewrite: Gossip about the female caddy was…

7.  Wordy: Shoo’s percent of the winnings would buy…    

Rewrite: Shoo could afford…        


8.  Wordy: Wouldn’t Shoo choose one of the less expensive restaurants…?  

Rewrite: Wouldn’t Shoo choose a less expensive restaurant…?



9.  Wordy: The ball spun out two feet past the other side of the cup.

Rewrite: The ball spun out two feet past the cup.

image by johnhain

image by johnhain

10. Wordy: Shame started at the top of her pea brain and flowed to…

Rewrite: Shame flowed from her pea brain to…  

11. Wordy: Margie nodded in the direction of the driving range.

Rewrite: Margie nodded toward the driving range.

 12. Wordy: itched to trace the smile lines on either side of his mouth.

Rewrite: itched to trace the smile lines framing his mouth.

13. Wordy: stared at him from the other side of the table.  

Rewrite: stared at him from across the table.

Of The


14. Wordy: They read sections of the newspaper

Rewrite: They read newspaper sections…

15. Wordy: curb their male talk in the presence of the little lady?

Rewrite: curb their male talk in the little lady’s presence?

16. Wordy: Light emitted from the window of the weight room.

Rewrite: Light emitted from the weight-room window.

image by HebiFot

image by HebiFot

17. Wordy: The burn of the carbonation refreshed the dryness of his throat.

Rewrite: The carbonation burn refreshed his dry throat.



Other Problems


18.  Wordy: for the teens of the world’s sake.

Rewrite: for teens worldwide.

19.  Wordy: After Allie’s show of little faith in his integrity…

Rewrite: After Allie had dissed his integrity…

20.  Wordy: suggested a few adjustments to the angle of his torso on his follow through.  

     Rewrite: suggested an adjustment to his upper-body position on his follow through.

21.  Wordy: His smile’s charm fell short of Shoo’s.  

     Rewrite: His smile lacked Shoo’s charm.

Reduce this little preposition and greatly improve your manuscript. Click to tweet.

What’s the first unnecessary of occurrence in your manuscript?

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  1. Inspirations By Katheryn

    I have learned to eliminate “but” and “then.” Those introductory words just got in the way.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Katheryn, I started to eliminate introductory BUTs too. But (:0)) I read an article by an editor who said opening BUTs and ANDs were perfectly fine in today’s writing. I think I remember he said it places more emphasis. Anyone else have thoughts on the introductory BUT?

      • JoAnn Durgin

        Hi Zoe. “But” and “And” are both acceptable now for beginning sentences. BUT only when used in moderation. 🙂 Blessings and thanks for a good post.

        • Zoe M. McCarthy

          I’m glad to have the confirmation, JoAnn, because I use introductory BUTs and ANDs…hopefully in moderation,

  2. mpmerritt2013

    Good post, Zoe! This is a new one to add to my wordy list!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Marian, after I reduced lots of OFs, I read aloud my scenes and changed a few back to the original with the use of OF. These few sounded better with the OF.

  3. Kelly

    Great post! Your examples were spot on and sure were improved! Thanks for sharing!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Kelly, I never dreamed I would like the scenes better from addressing that one little word.

  4. Linore Burkard

    Here’s a proposition for you: OF is prEposition! lol. As for “weasel words,” my biggest offender is the word “that.” I find that, I can usually do without that. tee hee

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      That’s funny that you have that problem with that, Linore. (Are we getting punchy, or what?)

  5. Linore Burkard

    Make that “A” preposition!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Linore, my husband just alerted me to what you were trying to tell me about the “proposition.” Now corrected. Thanks!

      • Linore Burkard

        Glad you got it. 🙂
        I’ll have to run the “find” tool through my next book to watch for the word “of”. Don’t think I’ve done that, before. Thx!

  6. marilyn leach

    Who would have thought “of” could be such a rascal. Thanks, Zoe

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I know, Marilyn. Kind of like a flea. Tiny but a real bother.

  7. gkittleson

    With your permission, I’m going to use this post in my writing class, Zoe. Well done!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Sure, Gail, I hope it helps your class.

  8. Jessica Johnson

    I’ve never been told to look for “of” before, but you’re right, there are so many unnecessary words attached to it! Wow. Thanks for pointing that out, Zoe!

  9. Zoe M. McCarthy

    You’re welcome, Jessica. I hope I’ll be more aware of the OFs as I write.

  10. Jane Foard Thompson

    By your examples, you’re basically saying drop the prepositional phrases when you can use more powerful verbs or nouns, etc.
    Great post!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Hi Jane, it appears the phrases with OF are particularly pesky. I think it may because OF is sort of invisible.

      • Jane Foard Thompson

        Yes, but your examples showed how strong the writing is without it. It takes good writing to great writing.

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