The paper approaches cut elimination from a new angle. On the basis of an arbitrary inference relation among logically atomic sentences, an inference relation on a language possessing logical operators is defined by means of inductive clauses similar to the operator-introducing rules of a cut-free intuitionistic sequent calculus. The logical terminology of the richer language is not uniquely specified, but assumed to satisfy certain conditions of a general nature, allowing for, but not requiring, the existence of infinite conjunctions and disjunctions. We investigate to what extent structural properties of the given atomic relation are preserved through the extension to the full language. While closure under the Cut rule narrowly construed is not in general thus preserved, two properties jointly amounting to closure under the ordinary structural rules, including Cut, are.

Attention is then narrowed down to the special case of a standard first-order language, where a similar result is obtained also for closure under substitution of terms for individual parameters. Taken together, the three preservation results imply the familiar cut-elimination theorem for pure first-order intuitionistic sequent calculus.

In the interest of conceptual economy, all deducibility relations are specified purely inductively, rather than in terms of the existence of formal proofs of any kind.