Off Of and Out Of

My Peanut Gallery buddy Ted wrote to me to express the following:

Another item that makes me grimace is the use of the word “of” after the word “off,” whereas it would be correct to use the word “of” after the word “out.”
Little Johnny hurt his leg when he jumped off of the bus. (should be “off the bus”)
Little Johnny hurt his leg when he jumped out of the tree. (correct)

According to the Motivated Grammar blog on WordPress, “off of” is both dialectal and informal.

The Oxford English Dictionary calls it “only colloq. (nonstandard) and regional” in current use. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage says it’s “primarily a form used in speech.” The Columbia Guide to Standard American English says it’s avoided at “Planned and Oratorical levels and in Semiformal and Formal writing.” … And using the Corpus of Contemporary American English as a measuring stick of informality, “off of” occurs in speech twice as often as in written fiction, about four times as often as in newspapers/magazines, and almost ten times as often as in academic writing. The more formal the style, the less likely you’ll see “off of.” That same blog claims that some uses of “off of” sound better with the word “of” than without:
•       Rolling Stones Song: “Hey, you, get off of my cloud!”
•       It’s a way of profiting off of something you expect to drop in value.
•       My new invention will knock the socks off of the scientific community.
•       I broke your statue by knocking the top off of it.

And while “out of the tree” sounds good to me, I can think of a few uses where “out” sounds better without the word “of.”
•       She was out the door in a flash.
•       He was looking out the window.

So, Ted, the answer is the standard engineer’s answer: That depends. If using “of” sounds right, use it. But opt for the single preposition if you can. After all, less is more.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

– Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist, 1881-1973


2 Responses to “Off Of and Out Of”

  1. petrocomputing Says:

    Jeanne, I just love your Tips of the Day and your mix of humor and English language information that helps me understand my language better – but I’m never going to “get” it all. Thanks for doing these.
    – Lori in Qatar

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