WRITING:  THE RIGHT WORD CLARIFIES                               June 30, 2017

. . . And, Interchangeability Doesn’t Always Work


Can the following words be used interchangeably in writing?

Because                      Since                            As

In most cases I say no, but I encourage you to decide after considering (a) examples of usage and (b) the fact that at times only a particular word can convey utmost clarity in both writing and speaking. A certain sentence from Writestyle’s Grammar course can make you think hard about this:

[Because/Since/As] Ann was fired, I’ve been doing her work.

Which word is correct to open the sentence? Let’s see how each affects the sentence and its meaning.

Because:  Refers ideally to reasoning and/or consequence:  Because I was fired [Event #1], I have no money to pay the rent [Event #2].

“Because” seems to hint at a direct relationship between the two events; at times, it could or could not be a direct relationship.  “Because” would be clear and correct in the following sentence: “Because Ann was fired, I have to do her work.”

Since:  Refers ideally and most clearly to the passage of time:  I’ve had no appetite or energy since Dad died.

At the same time, many people often say things like, “Since [Because] I’m sick, you can go in my place.” Is that wrong? Technically, no; but, as you, too, can tell, it isn’t as clear.

As:  Often refers ideally to an event AS it was happening:  A customer showed up just as I was locking the store for the night.  As I looked at the photo, I realized how much Joe looks like Dad.

Note that in those last two examples, you could use “while” instead of “as” because both indicate an event in motion.

In recent years, “as” has often been used incorrectly to indicate reasoning/consequence, which sets my teeth on edge, to say the least. It’s annoyingly wrong and unclear: As I was done, I went home. Clear correction: Because [reasoning] I was done [finished], I went home.

When you consider the above explanations and examples, you likely can understand that communications are truly clear when “because,” “since,” and “as” are used for their respective purposes. Ideally, they should not be used interchangeably, especially when clarity could be questioned. Many people use them interchangeably and some educators accept the practice, which can cause confusion regarding the intent of some sentences.

Thinking of your readers and establishing clarity for them is such a courtesy that prevents confusion and saves time.

In the subject sentence above, we believe that “Since” is the best answer because it denotes the passage of time: Since Ann was fired, I’ve been doing her work. But, “Because” could work, too: Because Ann was fired, I’ve been doing her work.

Rephrasing is another way to clear things up. Here are a few more options for sentences I included above:

Ann was fired, so I’ve been doing her work, too.  Ann was fired; I have to do her work, too.  Since Ann was fired six weeks ago, I’ve been doing her work, too.

Aren’t those crystal-clear?

In recent years, “as” has often been used incorrectly with or without punctuation, as the case may be, to indicate an addition or a comparison. We’ll cover those issues and more regarding “as” very soon.

Before you know it, you’ll use “because,” “since,” and “as” as well as you should, without concern.

In all instances, simply pausing to consider accuracy and clarity as a courtesy while writing and speaking can bring the correct usage.

Note:  Many lessons and bits of advice in this Writing/Grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus. Some current or potential writers/editors may benefit from an in-depth study of our Grammar, Punctuation, and Editing courses. Questions? Let me know. We’re here to help!

Vickie L. Weaver

Vickie L. Weaver

Owner at Writestyle
Writing has been an important talent and part of my life since I was a child.Professionally, after decades of employment for others, I founded Writestyle in 1996 to provide writing, editing, proofreading, training, and more to clients worldwide (www.writestyle.com).Clients often call my work “magic.”I have written and/or edited for “Coexistence Magazine” (national), for “Ohio Magazine,” and for various newspapers.In addition, I have edited or contributed to the writing of numerous books.Personally, I have written in various genres.I have always composed poetry; as such, I have won awards and publication for some of my poems, and I am compiling a book of my poetry.One of my children’s books is set for publication.With my second husband, family and friends in Ohio, I enjoy music and dance, aid charitable causes, and strive for beauty and harmony in life.
Vickie L. Weaver

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