Periphrasis is the expression of an idea by using many words rather than just a few. In periphrastic writing, function words are used instead of inflection.
Function words indicate relationships or grammatical functions; they usually do not contribute to or change the meaning of a sentence. Function words are
Inflection is the spelling change in a word to indicate its grammatical relationship to other words in the sentence. For example,
Periphrastic constructions in your writing can be reduced by using nouns as modifiers rather than by using function words. The wording in this sentence
The changes of the axial position of the model in the tunnel are accomplished by means of a split-sting section that can be added to or removed from the model assembly without disconnecting the lines of the instrumentation.
can be reduced to
The axial position changes of the model in the tunnel are accomplished by a split-sting section added to or removed from the model assembly without disconnecting the instrumentation lines.
Removing half the bolded prepositions (function words) made this sentence more easily read and the meaning clearer: nouns and their adjectives now modify other nouns (e.g., axial position is used to modify changes and instrumentation to modify lines).
Changing the sentence to active voice can make it even clearer:
By adding or removing a split-sting section to or from the model assembly, one can change the axial position of the model in the tunnel without disconnecting the instrumentation lines.
Most periphrastic constructions are genitive (possessive). However, in the
sentence above, they describe the types of changes and lines. The
periphrastic genitive can also indicate the doer of an act--the
wind's force (the force of the wind), with the author's permission (the
permission of the author), the Pathfinder's launching (the launch of the
Pathfinder)--or the recipient of an act--the child's murderer (the
murderer of the child), the team's defeat (the defeat of the team).
Using what you have learned, can you improve this sentence?
The user is responsible for assessing and documenting the influence of out-of-tolerance conditions on the validity of present and past data for their effect on the quality of products by this equipment whenever nonconformances are found during calibration.
Make it your practice to delete excess genitive prepositions, but do so in moderation. Just as too many prepositional phrases can muddy a sentence, the opposite extreme, a noun-adjective string that is too long, can make it impossibly obscure. Consider the following preposition-deficient sentence:
NASA's Chief Financial Officer's somewhat controversial and era-ending June 1995 executive notice, Minimum Office Automation Software Suite Interface Standards and Product Standards, concerning inter-Center NASA computer software and hardware interoperability and standardization affected our division chief's recent end-of-the-fiscal-year Sun Unix system mini-mass buying decision.
Responsible NASA Official: Natalie L. Henrich,
Glenn Technical Publications Manager
Web Curator: Caroline A. Rist (Wyle)
Last updated: 4/22/2011