Writing Style – Preposition Placement

A BizWritingTip reader wrote: “In a recent tip, you wrote the sentence ‘Whom should I send the report to?’ In my years of taking English, I would consider re-writing the sentence to read ‘To whom should I send the report?’ If you are so inclined, I would love to know if you have a different opinion about this.”

BizWritingTip response: The word “to” is a preposition. (Some other prepositions are on, in, by, with, from, and at.)

English purists insist that a sentence should never end in a preposition. They would recommend writing “To whom should I send the report?”

Examples (correct from a purist’s standpoint)

I would like to know on what floor he works.

About what were you talking?

On the other hand, if you want to write a business document (a letter or an email) that sounds like a human being has sent it – rather than a computer – it is better to frame your sentences in the same way as you would when speaking. And very few people can mentally reorganize their sentences when they speak so that the preposition doesn’t fall at the end.

Examples (correct in speech and in business writing)

I would like to know what floor he works on.

What were you talking about?

Whom should I send the report to?

One of the prime movers in permitting the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence was Winston Churchill. Frequently criticized for ending sentences this way, he said, “This is the sort of thing up with which I will not put.” It is correct grammatically. But it makes little sense.

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