A colleague of mine is preparing certificates for participants in a two-week educational program. Just to be safe, I'll use fake details which are hopefully equivalent to the real ones: let's say this program is an annual event called the Harvard Sentence Construction School, but the exact subtopic changes each year. This year the subtopic is (again, fake detail) prepositional phrases.

We were trying to figure out a way to indicate on the certificate that this particular instance of the program is on the particular subtopic of prepositional phrases within the broader field of sentence construction, without implying that the school covers prepositional phrases every year. The current phrasing is

This certifies that [name] has completed

The 4th Harvard Sentence Construction School
on Prepositional Phrases

I (as a native speaker of English) couldn't come up with anything better, so I turn to you: is there a better way to give the implication we want?

For the certificate we need the text to fit on two lines, so we can't make it very long (actually the real name is shorter than the example I've used above).

  • I'm not sure if this goes here or at ELL, but I'd be happy to have it migrated if that is appropriate.
    – David Z
    Mar 17 '15 at 10:04
  • 2
    The 'on' does add ambiguity. Just omit it. A colon can be used to introduce a sub-title (Master and Commander: ...) but looks a little untidy to my mind. With two lines, especially when the top one is obviously not a complete line, there is a natural separation anyway. You don't require complete sentences in titles (your original isn't one anyway). Mar 17 '15 at 10:12
  • @EdwinAshworth good idea. Perhaps you could post that as an answer?
    – David Z
    Mar 17 '15 at 13:08
  • It's not a major point of English, David, so I'll leave it as a comment. People worry about 'the right way' in many cases like this. Aim for (1) non-outlandishness, (2) clarity, (3) a pretty style before worrying about whether it's in X's 1930 Book of English Rules. However, if your boss/profs say use the Y Style Guide, use the Y Style Guide (at least until you leave). Mar 17 '15 at 17:48
  • @EdwinAshworth well, my thought was that, major point of English or not, it directly answers my question. On your other point: clarity is precisely what we're going for here. (We don't care about what is in somebody's book of rules; we care about what real people are going to think when reading the certificate, and about minimizing the number of cases in which a reader gets the wrong idea.)
    – David Z
    Mar 18 '15 at 5:11

I might reverse them.

This certifies that ______ has completed

Prepositional Phrases:
The 4th Harvard Sentence Construction School

However, because you have had three of these already, you would probably be better to stick with whatever precedent has been set.

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