Example I:

"How telling this is [of/about] the way international students continue to be perceived by their American peers on U.S. campuses?"

Example II:

"Public opinion is telling [of/about] its culture."

What preposition should be used with telling in sentences of this kind — of, about, or neither?

  • Should you ever insist on using a preposition and the sentence structure as in the example, then of it is. However, rephrasing the sentence is better. As the answers on this page show.
    – Kris
    Feb 9 '14 at 15:15

Telling in this sense is normally not used with a preposition, because it's an adjective.

Public opinion of its culture is telling.

If you have a sentence like your first one where telling can't be used as an adjective like this, it's not a sentence where it would normally be used.

  • I can't imagine this is true, as it is often followed by an analysis of what it reveals, which doesn't occur if placed at the end. Feb 9 '14 at 14:06
  • Your telling analysis of is OK, but the of goes with analysis. Telling is an adjective. I'll add that.
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 9 '14 at 14:11
  • 1
    I'm not sure I agree with you. One can clearly say: 'Public opinion is telling as regards the matter'. Can one not then continue with 'It is particularly telling about the behaviour of the Minister'? Or would I need to say '... as regards the behaviour of the Minister'?
    – WS2
    Feb 9 '14 at 14:26

One can use nothing (possibly best)

a telling smile

one can use of (common)

a telling analysis of motivation in business.

This is telling of the high-input crop production and high animal density polluting agricultural practices that continue to dominate the European landscape.

or, one can use about (though this is the least formal)

how telling this is about the culture of the US


Whilst I think 'of' or 'about' are both valid, I don't think you necessarily need a preposition. 'Public opinion is telling its culture' sounds quite alright to me.

Edit. I now realise that this answer misunderstands the question.

  • And what do you think of example I?
    – asef
    Feb 9 '14 at 14:01
  • Though I have been upvoted on this I realise I have misunderstood the question. My example uses 'telling' as a verb. see my comment above to Andrew Leach.
    – WS2
    Feb 9 '14 at 14:18
  • and here I upvoted it! (before edit) Feb 9 '14 at 14:41
  • Thank you everybody for making the conversation absolutely fruitful!
    – asef
    Feb 9 '14 at 15:00

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