Below is Not an Attributive Adjective
The word below is used as a preposition and as an adverb, but never as an attributive adjective.
At least, that is what I believed until I received this email from a reader:
Have you written about the current use (or, rather, misuse) of “below”? People are saying, “Please read the below information and send your reservation,” etc.
Sure enough, a quick Web cruise provides numerous (international) examples of the phrases “below information” and “below form” from sites run by universities, health services, local governments, and newspapers:
To facilitate the application process, please read the below information completely. After reading the below information, please apply.—Virginia Tech graduate school.
Please read the below information carefully before using the old Vocals Syllabus in your exam.—Rock School (UK).
For data classifications and handling please read the below information provided by Purdue University.—Purdue University.
If you already participate in CAQH: Please complete the below form and submit it (or any questions) using the contact information below.—Molina Healthcare.
Please read the below information to help with the application process.—City of Buffalo, New York.
Please read the below information to see which option suits you.—The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).
In each of these examples, the word below should follow the nouns and not stand in front of them.
The OED defines this use of below as follows:
below adverb: Lower on a written sheet or page; hence, later in a book or writing; at the foot of the page.
When an object is present, below is a preposition:
Read the information below the dotted line. (The object is “the dotted line.”)
When no object is present, below is an adverb:
He was asked to sign his name on the line, but he wrote it below.
In a construction like “Read the information below,” the word modified by the adverb is not stated. O’Conner and Kellerman at Grammarphobia offer this suggestion:
It might sometimes help to imagine an unstated word like “located” or “positioned” in there somewhere: “the offices on the floor [located] below.”
Merriam-Webster muddies the waters in the entry for below as an adverb by placing the word adjective in parenthesis beside the word adverb: be·low adverb (or adjective).
Paul Brians (Common Errors in English Usage) regards the below + noun usage as an oddity:
When calling your readers’ attention to an illustration or table further on in a text, the proper word order is not “the below table” but “the table below.”
Although it is common to see above placed before a noun in this way, doing it with below sounds very strange to most speakers of standard English.
Subscribe and Get a Free eBook: 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid
- The subscription is completely free, and we only send out one email per week, on Tuesdays
- Our emails are fun and educating and will help you improve your writing skills
- You can unsubscribe anytime you want and keep the e-book as a gift