News & views
‘prior to’ (yuk)
[18 Dec 2011] Just about the first thing any journalist is (or used to be) told, after ‘develop a thick skin and a strong bladder’, is that ‘prior to’ is a crime against the English language (if not humanity). But this vile preposition is as tenacious as herpes zoster and journalists persist in using it.
There were two recent outbreaks: ‘Tory MP Nadine Dorries...is unimpressed by the heavy-handed behaviour of Cameron handlers prior to the referendum vote’ and ‘Colonel Gaddafi’s convoy was blasted by a Nato jet prior to him taking refuge in a storm drain and then being shot by a mob’.
It’s not as if the language doesn’t have a single-word alternative, namely ‘before’. And the great thing about ‘before’ is that it makes the writing verby not nouny. Thus ‘Prior to the breakdown of the vehicle’ becomes ‘Before the vehicle broke down’.
Of course, ‘prior’ is useful as an adjective, eg ‘you must get prior approval’ and as a noun ‘the prior ran a godly monastery, unlike his predecessor, Prior Pryor’. [MC]