Prepositions are tricky. Should you refer to the results of your study or from your study? And do you present at or in a conference? We analyzed which preposition errors are most common in academic writing. Make sure you avoid these!

Our analysis

We extracted half a million sentences from our dataset of scientific papers, encompassing a range of academic disciplines and author first language backgrounds. Using Writefull, we analyzed which preposition errors were made most often across these sentences.

Our findings

We found 8,333 cases of misused prepositions. Most frequently misused was in, covering 24% of all error cases in our data.

The four most commonly misused preposition pairs are listed below. This collection only includes meaningful phrases, and excludes purely functional ones (such as ‘in the’ > ‘of the’).

1. In is used instead of of or on
With 500 and 501 occurrences respectively, these two share the top spot.

2. On is used instead of in
Interestingly, authors often refer to content on rather than in Tables or Figures.

3. In is used instead of into
Authors often use in instead of into when referring to things being grouped; following the verbs divide, classify, or split.

4. On is used instead of of
We see that authors often pair methodological terminology such as discussion, analysis, and overview with on instead of of.

Need more help with prepositions?

Download Writefull to check your text, and use the Language Search to compare the use of prepositions in any context!

About the author

Hilde is Chief Applied Linguist at Writefull.