# Repeating prepositions or not: "...is about..., about..., about and ..."?

Example

The Combinatorics part is about how linear extensions can be computed, about how the DAG structure is formed, about why the lattice structure is related to the order cancellation, about partial orders and fantastic discipline.

Question: is it good or bad idea to repeat the preposition about above?

– hhh
Oct 1, 2017 at 10:46

In a spoken context the repetition might be a powerful device of emphasis if modified a bit. If you are presenting what you are writing about and the referenced combinatorics are the central theme you might use it this way:

The Combinatorics part is about how linear extensions can be computed. It is about how the DAG structure is formed. It is about why the lattice structure is related to the order cancellation. It is about partial orders and it is about fantastic discipline.

This type of repetition is called an anaphora. You would make also an short emphasizing pause before each of the elements.

However it is not usually used in descriptive written contexts, as wikipedia tells us:

Today, anaphora is seen in many different contexts including: songs, movies, television, political speeches, poetry, and prose.

It may be technically acceptable but it's ugly as hell. Take "about" out of all but the first item in the list. In fact, I'd say "deals with the following" rather than "is about", and I'd use a colon before starting the list and semi-colons to seperate the items:

"The Combinatorics part deals with the following: how linear extensions can be computed; how the DAG structure is formed; why the lattice structure is related to the order cancellation; partial orders; and fantastic discipline."

I'm not sure whether "partial orders and fantastic discipline" is supposed to be one or two list items. I've assumed two above.

A superlative like "Fantastic" is an odd word to use in something which otherwise seems quite serious.

EDIT: if the "fantastic discipline" part is describing combinatorics, then the meaning becomes thus:

Combinatorics is `<some adjective>` and deals with the following list of things: `<a list of things>`.

In other words, you're saying two main things about it: how great it is and also the list of things it deals with. If you put the adjective at the end, after the list, as you have in your question, then most readers (including me) would read it as being part of the list. To avoid this problem you need to make it very clear it's not part of the list, and a good way to do this is to get it out of the way first.

Eg

"The Combinatorics part is a fantastic discipline, and deals with the following: how linear extensions can be computed; how the DAG structure is formed; why the lattice structure is related to the order cancellation; and partial orders.

I've emphasised "and" as we use that to also demonstrate that we're talking about two things: that fact that it's fantastic and the list of things it deals with.

You might also want to simply say "Combinatorics" instead of "the Combinatorics part".

• if such, would it be better have in the last part -- `"; and Combinatorics is fantastic discipline"`?
– hhh
Aug 4, 2016 at 10:42
• So "fantastic discipline" is supposed to be describing combinatorics? Aug 4, 2016 at 10:43
• Actually more precisely `"Combinatorics part is a fantastic discipline"`, by this I want to understand how to deal with the last case missing the `"about"` as in others.
– hhh
Aug 4, 2016 at 10:45
• "Combinatorics part is a fantastic discipline" doesn't make sense - can you explain what you mean by this? Aug 4, 2016 at 10:47
• The "Combinatorics part' could be just X such as "X is about Y, about Z, H and over Z." where the verb "is" means that: 1. X is about Y, 2. X is about Z, 3. X is H, 4. X is over Z. You propose semicolons and a bit different sentence structure also here? I want to understand how to deal with repeating prepositions and cases where some parts could vary such as "over" or "X is H".
– hhh
Aug 4, 2016 at 10:54