Writing Reviser: Cut Needless Phrases with a free Google Doc Add-on

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Strings of choppy prepositional phrases often cripple student writing—especially when those phrases attempt to compensate for a weak verb, a tactic akin to filling up your radiator as a remedy for running out of gas.

Consider this defilement of my first sentence:

A common type of failing in writing by students of all ages is the distracting use of prepositional phrases in the sentences of their essays.

The point, of course, isn’t to eliminate prepositional phrases—which are useful and expressive--but to employ them in ways that engage readers rather than distract them. To that end, teachers of my generation often demanded that we circle every preposition and to be verb in our essays. If the paper was full of circles, we had some revising to do.

The problem with that approach? Most of us didn’t know what to circle because we had never memorized a list of prepositions. We had revising to do. But we didn’t know how to do it.


The free Writing Reviser Google Doc Add-on eliminates that obstacle. By simply selecting a menu item, students immediately see every prepositional phrase in their essay, and they are prompted with information about when those phrases can be problematic. Precise revision thus replaces guesswork—as students tune their ears and begin asking the kinds of questions experienced writers ask automatically.

Add Writing Reviser to your Google Docs today for free. Learn more about Writing Reviser—and our complete suite of writing tools from Curriculum Pathways—at WritingNavigator.com.

All Writing Navigator tools are also available on the Curriculum Pathways website and as a free iPad app!

Looking for student resources on prepositional phrases (and a laugh or two), watch our animated video on needless phrases and check out the following:

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About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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