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Improve your business writing with this guide to using prepositions


If you are a business writer, you should know that written communication is about paying attention to the details. Otherwise, you risk coming across as sloppy and unprofessional.


One of the most confusing subjects about writing is the use of prepositions.

Who has not found himself struggling with questions like should I use "in," "on," or "at"?


No need to worry, we are here to help you! By understanding a few simple rules, you will be able to write more easily and will avoid mistakes with ease.

Prepositions of Place


In refers to large geographical areas such as continents, countries, cities, towns and villages; so when writing about the Pisa Tower, we will say it is in Italy.

We also use it to show that someone belongs to, or is part of, a group or organisation; for example: Dan is in the scouts.

Lastly, we use it to show that something or someone is in a place; for example: "It was dark in the garage."


On refers to smaller geographical areas; she lives on Cannete St.

We also use it to show that something or someone is connected to the surface of something but not inside it; for example: There is dust on the books.

There is one exception to this rule though: On the airplane/bus/train, but in the car.

Lastly, we use it to for a certain side - On the right/left.


At refers to the smallest area, we use it to refer to a specific location such as a house or an address, or to refer to a specific location/point on a journey. For example: She lives at 44 Ellen St. However, there are two exceptions:

  • we say On the back of the page (a less specific location).

  • At the corner of the street, but in the corner of the room (inside a surrounding area).

We also use "At" with an event or an activity, I saw her at the football match.

Lastly, we use it with places, when one wants to refer to a general area or to the activity taking place there. For example: I will meet you at the concert.


Remember:

  • We usually say "in" with towns and villages: Dan’s parents live in Paris. But we can use "at" when the town or village is a point of a journey: We stopped at Los Angeles on the way to Las Vegas.

  • We arrive "in" a country or a town: When did he arrive in Germany? But we arrive "at" a place or an event: I arrived at the meeting just after it started.

  • We go "to" a country, a town, a place or an event: When did you go to Egypt?

  • We sit at a table, on a chair, in a room.

Prepositions of Time


In, On, and At are three prepositions we use for time. Each of the prepositions has a distinct use, and if used properly, can greatly enhance the professionalism of your writing.


Using prepositions of time

In is a preposition used for three things:

  • When talking about long periods of time like years, seasons, and months; for example, Adam was here in 2005; I hope to be there in August.

  • With nonspecific parts of the day; for example, In the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. However, there is an exception to this rule. When using proper grammar, we say “at night.”

  • To say how long something will take; for example, I will see you in ten minutes.

On is a proposition we use for shorter, more specific periods of time, such as dates and days. You might say, “Can you come on Monday evening?” or “Sara’s birthday is on July 21st.”

At is a preposition we use for three purposes: to discuss hours and words meaning time, with age, and to refer to meal times.

  • With exact hours and with words that might mean time, we might say, “I’ll be there at 5 o’clock" or “The movie starts at midnight.” We might also say, “At the present,” or “at the same time”.

  • With age, we use at to say, “At eighteen, you must go to university; or, “Dan started to work at sixteen.

  • And finally, when we refer to meal times, we use the preposition “at”: “We had an interesting discussion at dinner.”


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