Grammar Guerrilla: Lose The “Of”


“He is as good of a running back as you will see in the SEC.” One hears and sees the expression, “as good of” almost constantly now and it as defective as it is unnecessary. The first part of the problem is the ignorance of the preposition of. In the previous sentence I used it twice. It signals possession (i.e., belonging) or source (from or out of). In the expression, “as good of” it is used as a comparative. Here is the second problem. What is needed here is a indefinite article, a. “He is as good a running back…”. Americans are addicted to intensifying expressions and thus ”as good a” has become “as good of” out of a desire to make the expression more affective or meaningful to the hearer.

We see the same desire to intensify an expression when we add the preposition of to outside or inside. One is outside the house or inside the house. Of is unnecessary. Outside tells the reader or hearer all that is needed.1

Allan Girdwood observes another abuse of the preposition of. In the expression “would of” the preposition of has been improperly substituted for the auxiliary have. The correct expression is “If not for the virus I would have gone to the store.” Writers and speakers are tempted to substitute of for have because they similar in sound, especially when the pronunciation of the auxiliary is clipped.

In these cases, the preposition of in the expression is out of place and unnecessary. In the first instance, the speaker is not intending to signal possession or source but comparison. The indefinite article a is all that is needed. The player is a running back among other running backs. The comparison is between running backs. Thus, “he is as good a running back as you will see in this league” is all that is needed. In the second, outside (or inside) does all the work.

Vin Scully, Red Barber, and others proved that sports announcers need not sound like numbskulls. Please do your part to put an end to this barbarism. Contact every sports-talk host, play-by-play announcer, and color commentator you can contact via social media and ask them to stop it.

Thank you.

© R. Scott Clark 2020. All Rights Reserved.



1. Thanks to Robert Strivens for reminding me about “outside of.”

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  1. Sometimes “inside of” can be right and “inside” can be wrong, e.g., Complete the sentences
    1. I was inside of him …
    2. I was inside him …

    The first can be completed with “so the ref gave Off Side”.
    For the second you need something like “so they cut him open to get me out”.

  2. I’ve never heard any use of “of” in that manner…..must be a regional thing. Always a fan of grammar tips though…..would like to see the Grammar Gorilla more often.

  3. I’m ”fraid I of often used “of” with “inside” and “outside” (In the case of “Keegan was inside of everyone bar the goalkeeper, so the ref gave an offside”, it may be justified, as “Keegan was inside everyone …” may suggest cannibalism.
    My misuse of “of” at the beginning of this reply is, in contrast, my first such offence!, but I of often seen others do it – Oops!

  4. Who was it who said “for you clean the outside of the cup”? Perhaps you should get into your time machine and go back and teach Him some decent English?
    No, when “outside” and “inside” are used as nouns rather than as prepositions, they do need “of”; and they probably picked up “of” for everyday speech as prepositions, by association.

  5. As long as we’re talking about grammar, find the missing word in this sentence: “Vin Scully, Red Barber, and others proved that sports announcers do not have sound like numbskulls.”

    On a more serious point, thank you for reminding people that the English language has rules. Yes, rules do change over time, but when the rules change, it’s usually because a wide consensus developed that the “old rules” no longer reflected common practice. Examples include changing the spelling of words like “plough” to become “plow.”

    People who don’t follow the commonly accepted rules, whether out of ignorance or carelessness or deliberate decisions (i.e., gender politics gutting grammar), make themselves sound silly, contribute to further debasement of our spoken language, and impede our ability to communicate with clarity rather than confusion.

    • “Plow” is still quite rare in the kind of stuff I see in the UK – But then we still write things like “sulphur”, even though the American chemistry textbooks I was using in the ’60s already spelled it “sulfur”. On the other hand, I’ve yet to see “fosforus” anywhere (other than ‘ere).

  6. I love that movie “Mice and Men,” about the battle between humans and mentally challenged rodents.

  7. I wish I had a fiver for every time that I have seen ‘would of’ for ‘would have’ in young people’s writing. The thing that is annoying me most at present is the proliferation of ‘protest’ in place of ‘protest against’. Even formerly respectable broadcasters and newspapers are coming up with: ‘The demonstrators are protesting climate change.’ Really? They are in favour of climate change? Are you sure?

  8. Thanks for these posts!
    Are there any good works you recommend on prose or any writer you want your students to emulate or channel?

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