5 Ways to Work Your Way Around the Weak “With”

By Mark Nichol

The preposition with is one of the workhorses of the English language, performing multiple functions, but it’s not a very powerful beast of burden. Writers often put it to work at the wrong task, employing it to link one phrase or another when a stronger word or phrase, or a form of punctuation, is much more structurally sound. Here are five examples of sentences better expressed without with:

1. “Requirements concerning the marital status of adopting couples are not uniform, with a stable relationship being required in most cases.”
Omit with, split the sentence into two, and add, to signal contrast, the conjunction however: “Requirements concerning the marital status of adopting couples are not uniform. A stable relationship, however, is required in most cases.

2. “Governance by committee is the norm, with 67 percent of large companies having committees of senior business leaders that oversee and prioritize information-technology investments.”
If what follows with is a definition or expansion, use a colon in its place: “Governance by committee is the norm: 67 percent of large companies have committees of senior business leaders that oversee and prioritize information-technology investments.”

3. “The debate largely focused on the wisdom of the Iraq invasion with Kerry attacking Bush’s decisions and Bush accusing Kerry of shifting views.”
As is, this sentence is clumsily breathless, but rather than simply inserting a missing comma after invasion, try a semicolon instead and delete with: “The debate largely focused on the wisdom of the Iraq invasion; Kerry attacked Bush’s decisions, and Bush accused Kerry of shifting views.”

4. “Each year, more than 1 million children are poisoned in their own homes, with thousands receiving permanent or chronic injuries.”
Make the sentence a simple compound by replacing with with and, and alter the following subject and verb as necessary: “Each year, more than 1 million children are poisoned in their own homes, and thousands of them receive permanent or chronic injuries.”

5. “Most Fortune 500 companies have hundreds of incidents per year, with only a small percentage of those incidents resulting in significant financial loss.”
Select, in place of with, another conjunction that is appropriate for the context, and change the form of the subsequent verb: “Most Fortune 500 companies have hundreds of incidents per year, although only a small percentage of those incidents result in significant financial loss.”

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8 Responses to “5 Ways to Work Your Way Around the Weak “With””

  • Rebecca

    Ah yes, the preposition “with.” I can still hear my high school English teacher telling me that it’s sloppy and wrong to end a sentence with a preposition. My niece’s English teacher told them the same thing. Lol.

  • Jerry Stephens

    I appreciate your advice on the weak preposition “with.” It does seem that “with” is either overused or, as you point out, could be used to more effect in other ways. But, I do have one question about your five examples. I do like the first. Separating the two parts into two separate (and shorter) sentences seems to make imminent sense. The two separate sentence approach would seem to resolve all five of the examples you raised. Am I being just too simple in my thinking? Or, is my simplistic approach merely overlooking the possibility of useful diversity in sentence structure?

  • Mark Nichol

    Jerry:

    Yes, the two-sentence approach would work for all sample sentences (and perhaps every possible sentence), but, yes, always resorting to that strategy would result in a dull consistency of sentence structure.

  • Precise Edit

    I don’t have a problem with “with,” per se. I do have a problem with the present participle that “with” often requires when introducing a descriptive phrase.

    By itself, the participle is an incomplete verb. Ex: “with thousands of them having….” Not only do these sentences have an incomplete verb form but also they have an -ing verb, which will always weaken writing.

    If we avoid unattached present participles, the problem with “with” will correct itself.

  • sanny

    What is the difference between ‘Everybody’ and ‘Everyone’? What is the best word to use?

  • Ken k

    Love this blog: I am always learning something.

  • Mark Nichol

    Sanny:

    They seem fairly interchangeable to me. I can’t think of an instance in which one would be appropriate and the other wouldn’t — though in established phrases, however — “Everybody’s talking about it” — one seems right to the exclusion of the other.

  • Jeff Walters

    I think I just found my daily support site! As a Web developer I don’t always follow proper grammar. These ‘with’ suggestions are good to know. Thanks for the help. Jeff

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