Writing with #mdxImpact: The Noble Preposition

Let us think about communicating impact. Whether you are preparing an impact statement, a Pathways to Impact, a paper, a press release, or a project summary, there are some simple ways to make sure that language is working for you to clarify your project, rather than obfuscating your constructed (un)intentional dialectical inter/actions, for as Derrida tells us “there is nothing outside the text.”

With this in my mind, I am starting a 7 part series on writing your impact, which is largely based on tips that I give to researchers here at Middlesex in preparing any communications that is addressing a particular audience. I would love to tag these weekly posts with #wednesdaywisdom, but that feels too self-aggrandizing. Maybe if I still lived in North America, I could get away with it…

I will begin with my favourite performer in the English language: the noble preposition. Often neglected and sometimes abused, prepositions are the hardest working words you use. I had a non-native English speaking student ask once, “do you sit on or in your chair?” I expounded on the many types of chairs, positioning of back and legs, desk absent or present, degree of tilt, and armed vs. armless before said student asked if it really mattered… and I couldn’t say that it did. While the nuance here is fun to debate (if you’re a language nerd), let’s consider prepositions that relate to impact.

Therefore, ask yourself have you spoken at, to or with your audience? How do these constructions change the relationship between you and another? When communicating to still another person, will they understand that you co-produced that strategy when you claim to have spoken to person x?


Just to be clear, we won’t worry about what words we end a sentence with. Prepositions work just fine in all parts of a sentence. The claim that you can’t end a sentence with a preposition is an unfortunate myth that distracts from the true greatness of the noble preposition.

When editing documents, make sure that you allow time for one look over strictly for prepositions. Are your prepositions doing what you want them to do? Are your interactions clearly two-way? Are you working with your partners rather than for them? Are your conversations happening between you and your beneficiaries or are materials being disseminated by you to your beneficiaries?

So, with this in mind, let us finally give credit to the hard work of the noble preposition. Without them, there would be no jam in our Victoria sponge, no cool breeze on a hot day, nor coffee in the morning. Let us bow before the might of these joiners, these words that bind.



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