Plain Language Commission . Clear English Standard


  1. Fall of Troy
  2. Subeditors a dying breed, says new website
  3. Plain language and the courts
  4. Deceptive language – food from fake farms
  5. Pikestaff 75 – read it now
  6. Jottings
  7. Jargon for grown-ups
  8. English to be Latin of EU?
  9. Large amount of amounts
  10. ‘The reason is because’
  11. Clichés – ‘wash down’, again
Go to archive

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 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]

Yes, I accept the cookie. No, I decline the cookie. would like to place a cookie on your computer to help us make this website better. To find out more about the cookies, see our privacy policy