Just Your Type

Type, design, writing and other funny stuff

I ended a sentence with a preposition? Oh, crap!

“America”, a fully-working solid gold toilet, created by artist Maurizio Cattelan, is seen at Blenheim Palace on September 12, 2019 in Woodstock, England.

In September 2019, Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, installed a solid gold toilet. Two days later, it was stolen.

The pretty potty is the creation of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, and was meant to be his comment on excessive wealth. It had spent the previous year on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where it was intended to be, um, used. The toilet, worth about 1.25 million dollars, was titled, “America.”

Investigators report they have nothing to go on.

Okay — that’s a really old joke, stolen from a story about a toilet that had gone mysteriously missing from a police station. In the actual Golden Toilet Caper, the thieves were caught in just days.

What is all this talk about prepositions for?

This story isn’t about toilets or art or Churchill. It’s about ending a sentence with a preposition, just like I did there in the subheading right above this sentence. Or in the sentence, they have nothing to go on. There’s a rule against it. Some people spit and snarl and gnash their teeth when they see one, others say it’s fine in certain contexts.

The punchline above: “they have nothing to go on” — how else are you going to say it? They have nothing on which to go? Ugh. Get outta here. Grammatically it’s better, stylistically it’s worse. There are idioms — ways we say things — and it’s no fun to mess with those.

I suggest you get out of the jam this way: throw out the whole sentence and start over. If you find yourself struggling over good grammar versus sounding right, you’re already in trouble. In the punchline above, you might say instead, “They have no clues to follow.” Of course, you’ll ruin the joke, but you get the idea.

“From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

— Winston Churchill

Of course if you’re one of those who think there’s nothing wrong with ending a sentence with a preoposition, try this — a sentence that ends in no less than five prepositions. With a little mental calesthenics, it makes sense too:

On his way upstairs for bedtime, a little boy asked his mom, “What are you bringing that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for?

Previously on Just Your Type:

Font vs typeface: you’re all right

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Is it ketchup or catsup?

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Forward vs foreword

About one in twenty manuscripts we receive starts with a "Forward." That makes sense because at that point it's the only direction you can go in the book, unless you want to read the title page again. The problem is that it is wrong. Where are we going with this?...

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Underlines for emphasis? How about never.

When you want to say something big — no, big — no, REALLY BIG, BIGGER THAN BIG, THE BIGGEST OF THE BIGS — should you choose italics, ALL CAPS, or underlined text? First, consider none of those. Try letting the text speak for itself, rather than using formatting to...

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Should punctuation be included in italics?

  This problem came up in a book I was working on recently. The author italicized a lot of words, but didn't include any of his punctuation in the italicization. Put another way, his words were italic, but his punctuation was Roman. It left a lot of visual...

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Who's this guy?

"Mick" is Michael Campbell, a book designer, graphic artist and writer. His humor column, The Dumpster, closes every issue of Food & Spirits Magazine. Author of Are You Going To Eat That?, and the new 2017 book of seventy hilarious all new essays, Of Mice and Me.
A singer songwriter too. New CD My Turn Now is available now!