February 20, 2008

Of ‘of’

Posted in Writing tagged , , , at 9:04 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

I’ve noticed that a lot of people writing online tend to be leaving the word ‘of’ out in places where I always would have put it. For example:

I have a couple of concerns.

It would never occur to me to write this as ‘I have a couple concerns’, but that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing (mostly Americans, I’ve noticed, although there could be others as well).

Like the crotchety (20 year) old man that I am, I will be resisting this latest assault on ‘proper’ English with all my whiny, self-important might. You have been warned.

Word count for [untitled]: Still 12, 796, thanks to me having to go to and prepare for a job interview.

Target word count for the end of the day: 13,200

Current word count for [untitled]: 13, 571



  1. Thom said,

    Interesting observation. When I first read your example – “a couple concerns” – I thought that it sounded odd and I didn’t think that I remembered hearing the word “couple” used that way, but the more I think of it the more I realize you’re right.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with The American Heritage Dictionary, which is a prominent dictionary published in the U.S., but when I checked, it had this to say in one of its usage notes:

    “The of in the phrase a couple of is often dropped in speech, but this omission is usually considered a mistake, especially in formal contexts. Three-fourths of the Usage Panel finds the sentence I read a couple books over vacation to be unacceptable; however, another 20% of the Panel finds the sentence to be acceptable in informal speech and writing.”

    So at least a couple people must leave off the preposition, as you noted! 😉

  2. lifelessonsfromwriting said,

    I’ve heard of the American Heritage Dictionary, but I’ve never actually seen a copy before (although I believe you can buy them in some larger book stores over here).

    In Ireland, I don’t think people would ever drop the ‘of’ before ‘couple’, even in very informal speech, which is probably why it seems so strange to me when it’s left out in writing.

    Still, if I had to choose between that or ‘thru’, I think I’d willingly give up my ‘ofs’ 🙂

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