Posted by: Jack Henry | November 6, 2017

Editor’s Corner: A big fuss over two letters

Dear Editrix,

I know you aren’t really there for every little question everyone on earth has, but I’m a little confused. [KC – Ha ha! If you only knew!] I was writing a document this week, and Microsoft® Word suggested that “all of” was unnecessary, and that “all” was more succinct. So I changed it to “all” and then my reviewer commented that I had grammar issues in my document and sent it back for me to add the “of” back in.

I must admit, adding the “of” seems more natural to me. Could you please help me understand?

Here’s an example:

  • Our goal is to make hot air balloons available to all of JHA by the end of the year.

Of Mice and Men

Dear Of Mice and Men,

You always have the best questions! I have been wondering about the use of “of” in this case and in other cases, so let’s talk about your example today. According to some interesting information, the word “of” comes with lots of rules. For example, you always say “a couple of” something. “A couple dogs ran my way,” is incorrect. “A couple of porcupines chased me,” is correct.

And from the Cambridge website, here is some information about other times to use (or not use) “of.”

All of

We use all of before personal pronouns (us, them), demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) and relative pronouns (whom, which). The personal pronoun is in the object form:

I need to speak to all of you for a few minutes.

He brought gifts for all of us.

We had to contact the insurance firm and the airline, all of which took a lot of time. (all of which = ‘contacting the insurance firm and the airline’)

With demonstratives (this, that, these, those), we can say all of or all without of:

[talking about a pile of kitchen waste]

All (of) this has to go out into the rubbish bin.

We often use of after all in definite noun phrases (i.e., before the, possessives and demonstratives), but it is not obligatory:

All (of) the workers were given a pay-rise at the end of the year.

I gave all (of) my old books to my sister when she went to university.

What shall we do with all (of) this cardboard? Throw it out?

All without of

We use all, not all of, before indefinite plural nouns referring to a whole class of people or things:

All cats love milk.

Not: All of cats love milk.

This book was written for all children, everywhere.

We use all, not all of, before uncountable nouns:

All junk food is bad for you.

Not: All of junk food is bad for you.

I love all music, not just classical.

So, after all of that, I am thinking that, in your original example, if you translate “JHA” to “employees,” you would just say: “We plan to make hot air balloons available to all employees.” You would not say: “We plan to make hot air balloons available to all of employees.”

If you translate JHA to “the company,” you would say: “We plan to make hot air balloons available to all of the company (a bit awkward).” We would not say: “We plan to make hot air balloons available to all the company.”

I guess in this case it depends what “JHA” is. Is it the people? Is it the buildings? Is it the company? Or is it an “indefinite plural noun referring to a whole class of people”? I think you could make an argument either way.

Perhaps if there is doubt, it’s time to rewrite the sentence altogether?

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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