John Dixon, independent medical writer and trainer in scientific writing skills, provides a useful tip for medical writers who work in MedComms.

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Recorded 09 March 2020. Produced by

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Hi, I’m John Dixon, a trainer in scientific writing, and here’s a bite that I hope may help you with your writing.

Can you end a sentence with a preposition? [NEXT SLIDE]

So … can you end a sentence with a preposition?
Well, The Chicago Manual of Style gives an unambiguous ‘yes … you can’. … pause … [NEXT]

Other style guides suggest that if a sentence ending in a preposition can be avoided without the sentence becoming clumsy, then consider rewriting it for formal English use.

But for less formal use, it’s acceptable. [NEXT SLIDE]

So, Let’s recap … what is a preposition? [NEXT]
It’s a word that links a piece of information to a sentence
It often indicates position or direction
It’s usually located before the additional information … which is called its complement … which may be a noun, phrase or clause [NEXT]
There are over 60, but examples include to, of, with, at, from, into, in, on, before, after, for… [NEXT]
So … at the end … within the scope of this review … before starting the study [NEXT SLIDE]

Sometimes, a sentence can only sound sensible with the preposition at the end. So, we should keep it there. [NEXT]
For example … We wondered if the new drug was worth searching for. The preposition ‘for’ sits comfortably at the end of this sentence. That’s fine. If we tried to move the preposition from the end, we could get something like [NEXT]
… ‘We wondered if for a new drug it was worth searching.’ This is a horrible sentence [NEXT] and should be avoided.

Another example [NEXT]: The issue is challenging to think about. Again, that’s fine, but [NEXT] ‘The issue is challenging about which to think.’ is, again, horrible [NEXT] and should be avoided. [NEXT]

Removing a preposition from the end of a sentence may be possible … not horrible, but still awkward.
For example … Children were given 10 images to look at. This sounds fine.
The sentence could be rewritten [NEXT] … Children were given 10 images at which to look. This isn’t horrible, but is awkward … [NEXT] so better to avoid. [NEXT SLIDE]

So … the issue is … which sort of sentence should we consider rewriting to remove a preposition from the end of a sentence for use in formal English text? [NEXT] This is more a matter of judgement rather than strict rules, but here are a couple of examples. [NEXT]

She offered one solution that we were already aware of. This is fine for informal use. However, it could be rewritten for more formal use, and would be acceptable [NEXT] … so … She offered one solution of which we were already aware.

Another example [NEXT]: They use one of the designers I work with. This is also fine for informal use, but it could be rewritten for more formal use, and would be acceptable [NEXT] … so … They use one of the designers with whom I work. [NEXT SLIDE]

But don’t get confused with words that can be a preposition and an adverb or even a conjunction. [NEXT]
So in the sentence … They had not considered this before the operation … before acts as a preposition and sits nicely before its complement … the operation. [NEXT]
But what about … They had never been there before. Here, before is an adverb and sits … correctly … at the end of the sentence.

[NEXT] Well, I hope that’s helpful.

Well, I hope that’s helpful. For more bites, visit

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[For the avoidance of doubt: this video is intended to be freely accessible to all. Please feel free to share and use however you like. Cheers Peter Llewellyn, Director NetworkPharma Ltd and Founder of the MedComms Networking Community activity at]