A while back, I was filling in the profile section of my Etsy shop, and I thought I’d mention that I’m a copy editor—get in a plug for that. I was typing away, and started to end a sentence with a preposition. But I stopped myself. How would that reflect on me as an editor? Since many people think ending with a preposition is grammatically “illegal,” I decided to write the sentence another way.
What Do I Mean People Think It’s “Illegal”? Isn’t It?
Who says it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition? Here’s my backward answer: Who said it isn’t okay? A zillion grammarians? All the style manuals? Your grade-school teacher? Not grammarians, and not my favorite style manual. Yep, some teachers, even though it’s not a grammar rule. For a lot of folks, it’s just old, ingrained, incorrect teaching from early school years.
There’s an oft-quoted, or misquoted, statement about ending with a preposition that’s attributed to Winston Churchill. I’m not going to repeat it here; it’s fun, but I’ve seen it one time too many. This site has a lot of versions of the “quotation”: “Churchill” on Prepositions on Paul Brians’s site.
Yes, Sometimes You’re Right to Not End a Sentence with a Preposition.
Avoid ending a sentence with a preposition when the preposition is unnecessary. Here’s an example: Where’d you eat dinner at? The word where makes at redundant. Of course, if you’re writing a story, and that’s how your character speaks, then that’s how you should write their dialogue.
Since it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition, what do copy editors do with all the free time left from not having to pull out their red pencils and mark those sentences? Oh, goodness me, there are zillions of things to fill that time. Copy editors do more than look for errors: We help you clarify muddy passages. We help you keep characters in character. We peer into, and help you fill, plot holes so your readers won’t fall into them.
And most of us love our work. I do!