03 Mar 2015

My Prepositional Relative Pronoun Hell

In Which I Vent About The Infuriatingly Pointless Use Of "In Which" In Sentences In Which Too Many Prepositions Are Put In

Oh Balls.

That is a picture of the shadow chancellor speaking at a business lunch today. But how did the copywriters at London First, or anyone else for that matter, fail to notice the ludicrous, pan-crashingly clumsy insertion of "in which" in their mission poster? I wince at this kind of thing in a child's homework, but on a professional piece of promotional copywriting I am literally* smashing my head on the table and questioning the purpose of everything.

Let me take you back to 1973 and remind you of the now classic example of this horrible phenomenon:

"And in this ever-changing world in which we live in…"

Few lyrics in pop music make me cringe as much as this in Live And Let Die. (They’re all from Do They Know It's Christmas.) Aside from the bungling construction "in which", the otherwise godlike genius of Paul McCartney has made the mistake of using three prepositions when one would have sufficed:

“And in this ever-changing world we live” (rhythm and metre aside of course).

However, Paul McCartney is a songwriter not a copywriter. And the lyrics to Blackbird alone should exonerate him. The same cannot be said for the author of the London First poster who would be wise to remember that in copywriting, pithiness is everything. Slogans, straplines and mission statements should use as few words as possible. Unwelcome prepositions and relative pronouns should be ejected like violent drunks at a tea party.

To spell it out:

Making London the best place in the world to do business.

Phew. That’s better.

*If you don’t believe me then I should remind you the definition of "literally" was extended to include its metaphorical opposite by the Oxford English Dictionary two years ago.